JOHANNESBURG – To help you navigate the world of financial services in 2015, Moneyweb has put together a guide to understanding how the complaints process of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Ombud works. Since the FAIS Ombud handles complaints from members of the public against financial advisors and product providers it could come in handy.

1. Try make amends

Before submitting a complaint to the FAIS Ombud, you must try to resolve it with the responding party (financial advisor or product provider) within a six-week time frame. Once you’ve received the final word from the respondent and are still not satisfied, you then have six months to approach the Ombud with your complaint.

2. Fill out a form

Your complaint should be outlined in a six-page form under the How to complain tab on the Ombud’s website. You can phone the Ombud on 012 470 9080 if you need help completing the form, but it’s fairly self-explanatory. The form requires a detailed explanation of your complaint, including background, product details, as well as date-stamped phone calls and emails exchanged with the person or company you are complaining against. Supporting documentation, such as proof of your investment and any relevant correspondence you may have, should be attached to your complaint. There’s even a section that asks you to describe how you would expect your complaint to be resolved.

3. Know your limits

The Ombud has a jurisdictional limit of R800 000 per complaint and complainants must agree to forego any amount in excess of R800 000 in order for the Ombud to consider their complaint. However, it’s important to understand that one complaint can comprise a number of causes of action, which for the purposes of this rule are considered as separate complaints.

“Where a person makes an investment of R790 000 in July 2013 as a result of advice offered by their financial advisor and then in May 2014 a further amount of R1 million is invested, following the advice of the same financial advisor, the two transactions make two separate causes of action,” explains FAIS Ombud, Noluntu Bam.

“In other words, even though the person will send us one complaint detailing all the investments they made, the two transactions remain two separate causes to institute a complaint,” Bam tells Moneyweb.

If this complaint were to succeed, the full R790 000 would be awarded in respect of the first cause of action, while the second cause of action would be limited to R800 000. The complainant would ultimately walk away with R1.59 million.

Importantly, the Ombud is precluded from looking at complaints pending before a court of law. The office’s eventual determination has the effect of a civil judgment of the court.

4. Wait for an outcome

Once the FAIS Ombud has received your complaint, the office “may follow and implement any procedure which the FAIS Ombud deems appropriate, and may allow any party the right to legal representation,” an information leaflet on the Ombud’s website broadly explains.

The respondent is naturally given a chance to respond and the Ombud must first attempt to mediate a settlement between the parties. If the parties refuse to accept the Ombud’s recommendations, the Ombud will make a final determination. This could include either the dismissal of the complaint or the upholding of the complaint wholly or partially by compensating the complainant for financial harm suffered.

R10m for one advisor

Of the 9 400 odd new complaints received in the 2013/14 financial year, the Ombud settled 7 587 within the same year (including 49 determinations), returning around R30.6 million to consumers.

Of the 49 determinations made, 17 were made against Impact Financial Consultants CC and Michal Johannes Calitz in respect of Herman Pretorius’s Relative Value Arbitrage Fund (RVAF).

Excluding the annual interest accumulating from the date of determination to the date of final payment (varying between 9% and 15.5%), the total awards made to consumers in respect of this one advisor and product came to more than R10.7 million.


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