Complaint handling procedures

Notes on procedures that financial providers should follow when dealing with a complaint

In many instances, providers can sort out complaints satisfactorily without the involvement of the OAFS.  Indeed, it is advisable that every effort should be made by the provider to resolve a complaint at an early stage. 

The OAFS will not initiate an investigation before the provider has been given the opportunity by the consumer to put things right. Providers are required by the financial regulator to have their own internal complaints handling procedures, and to make this available to their customers. Such procedures shall provide for:
  • complaints to be investigated by an employee of sufficient competence (such as a senior official) who was not directly involved in the matter which is the subject of the complaint;
  • the person charged with responding to complaints to have the authority to settle complaints or to have ready access to someone who has the necessary authority;
  • responses to complaints to address adequately the subject matter of the complaint and, where a complaint is upheld, to offer appropriate redress.
A provider is required to give the customer a final response in writing within 15 working days (around three weeks) from receipt of the complaint. The final response should:
    i) include a short description of the complaint and of the outcome of the provider’s investigation; 
    ii) set out the provider’s final view on the issues raised in the complaint;  and
    iii) include details of any redress that is being offered, if considered appropriate.
A provider is justified in not sending a final response within 15 working days only where the delay is due to exceptional circumstances outside the provider's control. In these situations, the provider must exercise prudence and foresight and:
    i) inform the customer of this and of the reasons for the delay; and
    ii) provide an indication as to when a final reply is likely to be provided. 
However, the final reply from the provider must always be forthcoming within 35 working days (around seven weeks) from receipt of the complaint.  
In the event that the complainant does not accept the redress proposed by the provider or where a complaint has not been upheld, the provider is required to notify the complainant that he may lodge a complaint in writing with the OAFS.
In their final response letter, providers must give all relevant contact details of the OAFS, as follows:

Office of the Arbiter for Financial Services
N/S in Regional Road
Msida MSD1920
Contact numbers: 80072366 / +356 21249245

Consumers (individuals and micro-enterprises) may be able to lodge a complaint online. A fillable complaint form (available in Maltese and English) in pdf may alternatively be used, especially for joint complainants. 
A provider must take reasonable steps to ensure that all relevant employees (including employees of any of its representatives or agents) are aware of its internal complaint handling procedures and must endeavour to ensure that they act in accordance with them.  They should also be aware of the complaints process of the OAFS.
On receipt of a complaint form and a letter on file evidencing that the complainant has gone through the provider‘s internal complaint’s handling process, the OAFS shall register the complaint, offer mediation to both parties, and exchange any relevant information (refer to the step-by-step complaint process under "For Consumers").
The OAFS shall register a complaint if:
  1. the provider has rejected a complaint and informed its customer accordingly; or
  2. the provider has offered a settlement which is rejected by the complainant; or
  3. the provider has not responded to the customer’s complaint within 15 working days (around three weeks) from the complaint's receipt. The only exception is where exceptional circumstances outside the provider's control justify a delay, which cannot be more than 35 working days (around seven weeks) from the complaint's receipt. 
While the OAFS is considering a complaint, the provider should continue to deal with the customer as normal. E.g. handling their account or dealing with any separate claims. The OAFS should be informed of any material developments relating to the complaint.
The provider is free, at any time, to revise any earlier offer it has made to its customer if it thinks this could help resolve the complaint.
A copy of a complaint that is accepted and registered by the OAFS is then transmitted to the provider (by registered mail or e-mail, as applicable) for a reply. The OAFS would normally address any correspondence relating to complaints to the directors of the provider.  The provider may also nominate any other official (such as the Compliance Officer) to whom the OAFS can address complaints from consumers. It shall be the responsibility of the provider to provide correct and updated contact details of its representative to the OAFS.
The provider has 20 calendar days from date of delivery of a complaint to submit its response to the OAFS. Replies may be submitted by registered mail or email, as applicable. Failure to submit a reply (on time or none at all) would likely render the provider contumacious and the Arbiter may decree inadmissible any late submission of such a response.
A copy of the provider's response is sent to the complainant.  Contemporaneously, the complainant and the provider are invited to refer the case to mediation.
Further details about the entire complaint process of the OAFS is available under "For Consumers".