s/business-banking.dwt" --> The Banking Ombudsman Scheme
banking liaison group

banking ombudsman


Full details of the Scheme can be found at the Ombudsman's own site
- see end of page.

You can contact the Ombudsman Service on 0845 080 1800.

The purpose of this page is to answer the questions that we are most often asked about the scheme.


How do I use the Scheme?

Is the Scheme fair?


By the time you ask this question it is likely that your dispute has been a long-running affair and there is no solution in sight. You may feel very frustrated and see the Scheme as your last opportunity to have your voice properly heard.

The Scheme covers individuals, partnerships and small companies with an annual turnover of less than £1 million. It is limited to claims not exceeding £100,000.

Once the Ombudsman agrees to look at your case, the first step will be an attempt to settle the dispute by conciliation. If this does not work, your complaint will be passed to the Investigation Department.

An adjudicator will review all the evidence supplied by both you and the bank before reaching his decision. On average this takes about seven months, though some cases can drag on for years.

If either party is unhappy with the decision of the Adjudicator, they can seek a review by the Ombudsman himself. His final decision is binding on the bank, though the claimant is still free to pursue the matter in the courts if still not satisfied.


The Ombudsman and his staff see themselves as independent and have said that where doubt exists, they will always try to err in favour of the customer. They do try to be helpful and they have settled many disputes.

But the scheme is financed by the major banks and, as such, it can be argued that it is not truly independent. In common with most Ombudsman schemes, it is the industry's own "policeman".

The Ombudsman's Office acts in a quasi-judicial role. Its investigating officers are normally solicitors and they can only reach a decision based on the facts placed before them. Therefore, it is most important that you include all the relevant points in your submission.

If you are not used to this legal style of approach, this procedure may suit the bank rather than you.


Our Opinion

This is a worthwhile scheme for customers who have exhausted negotiations with their bank and it is free. The Scheme aims to decide cases based on what is fair given the legal principles involved and the circumstances of the case. The Ombudsman's final decisions are binding on participating banks but the process can be stately and even daunting for those not used to such procedures. Furthermore, where the very nub of the dispute concerns a lack of documentary evidence, or where a more practical view is required, the Ombudsman's very structured approach may not favour the individual.
Our experience indicates that to obtain the optimum result in any dispute, it is always best to avoid reaching a position of "deadlock". Wherever possible, it is better to negotiate an amicable settlement directly with the bank concerned.

Our advice is to use the services of an independent banking consultant to help you decide the best approach.


The Scheme is now part of the Financial Ombudsman Service.

You can contact the Ombudsman Service on 0845 080 1800.


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