The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Bill 2017 was published on 10 May 2017. The purpose of the Bill is to amalgamate the offices of the Financial Services Ombudsman and Pensions Ombudsman and to consolidate and update existing legislation. More importantly, the Bill provides for an extension of the time limits to bring complaints to the Ombudsman in respect of pension products and longer term financial services.
Section 51 of the Bill contains the provisions for time limits for complaints to Ombudsman. The proposed new time limit has two parts:
- for short term financial services, no change to the time limits are proposed, ie complaints must be made six years from the date of the act or the conduct giving rise to the complaint.
- for all pension products, and for longer term financial services (where the duration of the service is 5 years and one month, or more, and not subject to annual renewal or cancellable unilaterally) complaints can be made:
i) six years from the date of the act or conduct giving rise to the complaint or
ii) three years from the earlier of the following two dates:
a. the date on which the person making the complaint first became aware of the said act or conduct, and
b. the date on which that person ought to have become aware of that act or conduct.
iii) within such longer period as the Ombudsman may allow where it appears to him or her that there are reasonable grounds for requiring a longer period and that it would be just and equitable, in all the circumstances, to so extend the period.
The new time limits for long term financial services will apply to complaints made to the Ombudsman about conduct that occurred during or after 2002 and the service in which complaint is about must not have expired or otherwise been terminated more than six years before the date of complaint. This means, in effect, that the legislation will have retrospective effect.
Newspaper reports have indicated that there is cross-party support for the Bill and the aim is to have it enacted prior to the summer recess in July.