About the ABF
The Banking and Financial Ombudsman is an out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for disputes between customers and banks and other financial intermediaries, concerning banking and financial transactions and services.
It represents a more simple, rapid and cheaper solution than that offered by the civil courts.
The ABF carries out its tasks and decides disputes as an independent and impartial body, assisted in its work by the Bank of Italy.
The decisions it makes are based only upon the documents provided by the parties (complainant and intermediary); the parties do not need to be assisted by lawyers.
The Ombudsman's decisions are not legal judgments and are not legally binding; however, if the intermediary does not comply with a decision, its non-compliance is made public on this website for five years, and highlighted on the home page of the intermediary's website for six months.
Before submitting a dispute to the Ombudsman, the customer must lodge a dispute with the financial intermediary. If the client, the intermediary, or both are not satisfied with the ABF's decision they may submit the dispute to the civil courts.
The disputes received by the ABF are submitted to a decision-making body divided into seven territorial Panels in Bari, Bologna, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Rome and Turin. The composition of the panels ensures that the interests of all parties involved are represented.
Each panel is composed of five members:
- the chair and two members are selected by the Bank of Italy;
- one member is selected by the associations representing financial intermediaries;
- one member is selected by the associations representing customers (consumers and non-consumers).
The chair is appointed for five years, the other members for three years; the term may be renewed only once. All panel members must satisfy specific requirements of expertise, professionalism, impartiality and independence.
Support is provided to each panel by the technical secretariats, composed of Bank of Italy employees.
The seven technical secretariats carry out the following activities:
- receive and analyse complaints and check that the documentation is complete, correct and respects the deadlines;
- receive the documentation submitted by the parties, including that relating to the dispute submitted to the intermediary;
- if necessary, ask the client to correct their complaint within the mandatory term of ten days;
- handle communication with the parties concerning their complaints.
The origins of the ABF
The Bank of Italy instituted the Ombudsman in 2009, implementing Article 128-bis of the Consolidated Law on Banking, introduced by the Investor Protection Law (Law 262/2005).
The Interministerial Credit Committee (CICR) - operating within the Ministry of Economy and Finance - with the Resolution issued on 29 July 2008, and subsequent amendments, imposed the criteria for carrying out dispute resolution procedures and entrusted their organization and functioning to the Bank of Italy.
In order to implement the CICR Resolution, the Bank of Italy adopted the provisions governing the ABF dispute resolution system as a whole.
The ABF was initially divided into three territorial panels; in December 2016 four new panels were established and jurisdiction is determined according to the complainant's domicile.
In the event of temporary contingencies relating to the flow of complaints and the functionality of the system, the Bank of Italy may, in agreement with the Chairs of the Territorial Panels, and as an exception to the territorial jurisdiction based on the complainant's domicile, order the temporary centralization (for a maximum of 18 months) in one or more Panels of the handling of similar complaints on which there are consolidated views.
The provision concerning the centralization of complaints is published on this website at least 15 days before the date scheduled.
In this case, there are no changes for the client: the complaint continues to be lodged via the ABF Web Portal (or in hard copy but only in the cases allowed).