FAQs - Frequently asked questions

Why are dispute resolution systems like the Banking and Financial Ombudsman defined as 'alternative' or 'out-of-court'?

Alternative dispute resolution systems (ADR) represent an alternative to the judicial system. The resolution of disputes out of court may be more convenient; the procedure is simpler (the assistance of a lawyer is not necessary), more rapid and cheaper.

What is the difference between the ABF, mediation/conciliation schemes and arbitration?

The Banking and Financial Ombudsman is a decision-making alternative dispute resolution scheme, regulated by the law. Banking and financial intermediaries must adhere to it; the ABF's decisions are made according to the law, and uphold or reject the complaint, but its decisions are not binding for the parties. Clients and intermediaries can always submit the dispute to the civil courts. Arbitration requires an agreement between the parties, which may precede or follow the onset of the dispute, and is concluded by a binding decision reached by a neutral third party (arbitrator). Conciliation also stems from an agreement between the parties; however, in this case the third party (conciliator) does not decide the dispute but helps the parties to reach an agreement which may be approved by a judge and can become an enforceable decision.

Who may file a complaint with the ABF?

Anyone who has, or who has had contractual relations - or has simply established relations - with an intermediary for banking or financial services, including payment services.

The complaints submitted to the ABF may not relate to transactions, services or conduct that occurred prior to six years prior to the filing of the complaint.

What validity do the ABF's decisions have?

The Ombudsman's decisions are not legal judgments and they are not legally binding on the customer or the financial intermediary; however, if an intermediary refuses to comply with a decision in favour of the client, notice of its non-compliance is published on the ABF's website for five years.

What happens if the ABF's decision does not satisfy the parties or does not resolve the dispute?

Recourse to the ABF does not rule out the possibility of submitting the dispute to the civil courts, or of setting up conciliation procedures, arbitration, or any other scheme provided by the law.

May I be personally heard by the ABF in order to explain the reasons for my complaint?

You cannot be heard personally before the Panels in order to discuss facts or express opinions concerning the dispute. The procedure is carried out based exclusively on written evidence; the decision is taken based on the documentation provided by the parties.

Remember to respect the terms granted to you for the production of documents, if supplementary material is requested, and of rejoinders: the Territorial Panels never take into account any documents submitted after the mandatory deadlines, except for limited exceptions (e.g. waiver of the appeal, communication of a settlement or conciliation agreement).

Can the ABF request expert opinions to help it decide on the dispute?

No. The proceedings before the ABF do not allow the Panels to request expert opinions.