Regulations of the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Service (FINE)
These Regulations are in force as from 1 January 2021.
The Signatory Parties of this contractual arrangement are the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, the Financial Supervisory Authority and Finance Finland (FFI).
Art. 1 Mission and operation of FINE
The Finnish Financial Ombudsman Service (FINE) is a collaborative arrangement between the authorities, customer organisations and the financial sector. The purpose of FINE is to promote the interests of customers and enhance their trust in the financial operations, to improve financial literacy among the consumers and otherwise develop the everyday practices in the financial sector in line with sound development principles. The FINE organisation consists of the Supervisory Board and the Executive Committee, the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau, which serves as the Bureau of the organisation, as well as the Insurance Complaints Board, the Banking Complaints Board and the Investment Complaints Board.
FINE's core operations include its advisory, information and dispute resolution services. However, FINE does not provide investment advice, nor does it perform individual product or service comparisons.
In examining disputes, FINE follows the principles of fair trial, such as the independence and neutrality of the persons appointed to settle the dispute as well as the right of both litigant parties to be heard. Moreover, FINE respects the obligations under the Act on Alternative Dispute Resolution (1696/2015) when examining the consumer disputes referred to in the Act.
Cases will be taken up on the condition that the financial service provider, party to the dispute, is domiciled in Finland or has a Finland-based subsidiary or branch office, and that the service provider is a member of Finance Finland (FFI). In other situations, the condition applies that the service provider must have made a specific agreement with FINE on the use of its services. Without such specific agreement with FINE, the cross-border disputes based on the freedom of provision of financial services will be examined in line with the principles followed by the FIN-NET scheme promoted by the European Commission.
The arrangement referred to in these Regulations does not apply to the statutory pension, health or unemployment insurance policies.
Art. 2 Supervisory Board
The tasks of the FINE Supervisory Board include the following:
- adopt the FINE budget and Financial Statements, including the Annual Report;
- appoint the members to the Executive Committee and determine the remunerations payable to them;
- elect the Auditor;
- adopt the FINE strategy and decide on the general terms of employment of the personnel;
- appoint the Managing Director and the Director of FINE;
- decide on other persons authorised to sign for FINE; and
- act as the superior decisive body, directing and controlling the FINE operations.
The Supervisory Board comprises the Chairperson, three Members representing the Signatory Parties as well as Members invited by the above.
The Chairperson is not a representative of the Parties but is unanimously appointed by them. The Chairperson is authorised to sign for the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau.
The Financial Supervisory Authority, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority and Finance Finland (FFI) each appoint one Supervisory Board Member and Deputy Member. In addition, these Signatories may jointly invite Board Members who represent the Ministries covering the sphere of operation of FINE.
Art. 3 Executive Committee
FINE’s Executive Committee shall:
- provide the Supervisory Board with an annual proposition for a Budget and Action Plan;
- present the Supervisory Board with an Annual Report and account for the funds allocated to the organisation’s operations;
- appoint the Chairpersons and Members of FINE’s Complaints Boards and determine the remunerations payable to the Complaints Boards;
- carry out other tasks entrusted to it by the Supervisory Board.
The Executive Committee has eight Members and eight Deputy Members. Half of the Members of the Executive Committee represent the authorities and organisations, while the other Members are appointed by Finance Finland.
The Executive Committee elects the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson from its membership.
Art. 4 Decision-making by the Supervisory Board and the Executive Committee
The Supervisory Board and the Executive Committee convene at the invitation of their Chairpersons. The Supervisory Board may also decide to meet at regular intervals. A Supervisory Board Member can request that the Board be convened to discuss a determined issue.
The Supervisory Board and the Executive Committee constitute a quorum when the Chairperson or Vice Chairperson and at least half of the Members or Deputy Members are present.
Art. 5 The Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau
The Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau shall fulfill the following tasks independently:
- provide advice and assistance to consumers, small businesses and other comparable customers in insurance, banking and investment issues;
- conciliate customer disputes over insurance, banking and investment issues and issue resolution recommendations in the areas of competence of FINE’s Complaints Boards;
- promote general financial literacy by producing information material targeted at the customers;
- provide information on the issues raised during the daily operations of FINE;
- prepare comparisons of financial products and contribute to the preparation of the legislation related to the financial sector;
- make proposals and issue opinions on questions related to legislation, contractual terms, customer information as well as services provided by financial sector companies, based on observations made during the daily operations;
- act as the secretariat for the Supervisory Board, the Executive Committee and FINE’s Complaints Boards; and
- carry out any other tasks entrusted to it by the Supervisory Board or the Executive Committee.
To perform its advisory functions, the Bureau provides customers with guidance and information. Customers are offered information on the applicable contractual terms and legal provisions as well as the resolution practices of the dispute resolution bodies. In addition, the Bureau will inform customers about the available means of appeal and dispute resolution.
FINE’s Managing Director
The Managing Director will be responsible for the organisation of FINE’s daily operations and for the use of funds.
The Managing Director and the Director are each severally authorised to sign for the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau.
The Managing Director appoints the persons responsible for dispute resolution at the Bureau.
Art. 6 Responsibilities and areas of competence of the Complaints Boards
The mission of the Complaints Boards is to promote good insurance, banking, securities market and crowdfunding practices in the operation of the financial sector by issuing resolution recommendations in questions related to liability for damages or other disputes.
The Insurance Complaints Board issues recommendations to resolve disputes on the interpretation of the legislation and insurance terms, related to the insurance relationship and brought to the Complaints Board by the policyholder, insured, injured party, beneficiary or the insurance company in question. The Insurance Complaints Board does not examine issues related to the statutory accident insurance and patient insurance policies. Issues related to the statutory motor liability insurance policy are examined by the Insurance Complaints Board only if the dispute is of a private-law nature and outside the competence of the Traffic Accident and Patient Injury Board or similar bodies.
The Banking Complaints Board issues recommendations to resolve disputes related to the banking relationship, brought to the Complaints Board by the customer or the bank in question.
The Investment Complaints Board issues recommendations to resolve disputes brought to the Complaints Board by non-professional investor-customers and service providers. The Complaints Board will examine issues between the service provider and non-professional investor-customer, related to investment and mutual fund services as referred to in the Act on Investment Services and the Act on Common Funds. In addition, the Complaints Board will examine issues between the service provider and the non-professional investor customer related to investment-type insurance policies governed by the Insurance Contracts Act, as well as issues between the crowdfunding intermediary and the non-professional customer as referred to in the Crowdfunding Act. The recommendations focus on the application of legislation, provisions by the authorities, fair securities market practices, fair insurance practices, fair crowdfunding practices and contractual terms, as well as on the action of the service provider. The recommendations can also address the amount of the compensation. The Investment Complaints Board will not examine claims related to companies other than investment service companies, fund management companies, insurers offering investment-type insurance policies or crowdfunding intermediaries.
Reimbursement of the expenses incurred from submitting a complaint will not be examined in the dispute. However, a dispute on whether these expenses are covered by a legal expenses insurance policy can be examined as an insurance issue.
For a particular reason, the Complaints Boards can provide courts of law, authorities or other similar parties with expert opinions in individual litigations related to their specific sectors of competence.
Art. 7 Composition in dispute issues
Procedure in the Bureau
The Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau will seek to resolve disputes between the parties and give recommendations for resolutions in cases with an established resolution practice or cases which are unambiguous in terms of the application of the law or contractual terms.
The persons responsible for dispute resolution in the issues handled by the Bureau must have the professional and legal expertise required for the purpose and have an employment contract with the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau.
Procedure in the Complaints Boards
The Complaints Boards have a Chairperson and Members who are independent in the performance of their dispute resolution duties. The Complaints Boards elect the Vice Chairperson among the Members.
The Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau asks the Signatory Parties of the organisation to nominate the candidates for Complaints Board Members and their personal Deputies. The candidates must possess the professional and legal competence required by the task.
The Complaints Boards will make their decisions based on the preparatory proposals made by the Secretary who acts as the referring official.
Banking Complaints Board
The Banking Complaints Board has four Members in addition to the Chairperson. The FINE Executive Committee will appoint the Chairperson and the Members, with Deputies, based on the candidates nominated by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, the Financial Supervisory Authority and Finance Finland.
Investment Complaints Board
The Investment Complaints Board has four Members in addition to the Chairperson. The FINE Executive Committee will appoint the Chairperson and the Members, with Deputies, based on the candidates nominated by the Finnish Shareholders’ Association, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, the Financial Supervisory Authority and Finance Finland.
Insurance Complaints Board
The activities of the Insurance Complaints Board are divided into Sections. Currently, there are five Sections.
- Section I examines life and personal accident insurance issues, with the exception of investment-type insurance policies, as well as issues related to personal injuries under travel and general liability insurance policies.
- Section II examines travel insurance issues as well as general liability and legal expense insurance issues in cases where the policyholder, the insured or the injured party is deemed to be a consumer.
- Section III examines issues related to household, voluntary motor vehicle, farm, real estate, animal, motor liability and boat insurance policies. It also covers other consumer-related lines of insurance not falling within the competence of Sections I, II or V.
- Section IV examines issues related to policies covering corporate and self-employed persons’ property and operations, as well as liability insurance issues in cases where the injured party is also a company or a self-employed person.
- Section V examines issues related to pharmaceutical injuries insurance policies.
For a particular reason, the Chairperson can order a specific Section to examine a case.
The Insurance Complaints Board is composed of the Chairperson and Section Chairs. The Chairperson of the Insurance Complaints Board also chairs one of the Sections, as well as the Extended Section. The Section Chairpersons chair one or several Sections each and act as Deputies of the Complaints Board Chairperson.
Each of the Sections I, II, III and V is composed of four Members, with Deputies, and the Section Chairperson. Section IV is composed of six Members, with Deputies, and the Chairperson, plus additional Members, with Deputies, for the examination of forwarding and consultation liability issues. Complaints Board Members and Deputies can also serve in Sections other than the one to which they have been appointed.
The FINE Executive Committee will appoint the Chairpersons of the Complaints Board and the Sections as well as the Members with their Deputies. The Executive Committee will appoint the Members of Sections I, II and III among the candidates proposed by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority and Finance Finland. The Executive Committee will appoint the Members of Section IV among the candidates proposed by Finance Finland, the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK and the Federation of Finnish Commerce, while Deputy Member candidates are proposed by Finance Finland, the Association of Finnish Lawyers, the District Court of Helsinki and the Central Chamber of Commerce. The additional Members and their Deputies will be appointed among the candidates nominated by the Finnish Freight Forwarders’ Association and the Finnish Association of Consulting Firms SKOL. The Executive Committee will appoint the Members of Section V among the candidates nominated by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Pharma Industry Finland PIF and Finance Finland.
Simplified procedure at the Complaints Boards
The Complaints Boards can apply a simplified procedure to issues that have an established resolution practice or are unambiguous in terms of the application of the law or contractual terms.
In the simplified procedure, the Board is solely composed of the Chairperson. The decision of applying the simplified procedure to a case is made by the Secretary acting as the presenting official for the Section in question. If necessary, the Chairperson can decide to refer the case to the relevant Complaints Board or Section.
Extended Section of the Insurance Complaints Board
When necessary and on the initiative of the Section Chairperson, the Extended Section will discuss issues related to the interpretation and application of the law or contractual terms and conditions, potentially raised in various Sections or important in principle. The Extended Section means that the Section in question is complemented by the Chairpersons of the other Sections.
Decision to dismiss the case without examining its merits
The Complaints Board, the referring official appointed as the Head of Section of the Board, the FINE Managing Director or the Director can decide to dismiss a dispute without examining its merits as per Article 10 of these Regulations or on the grounds that the issue is not within FINE’s competence.
Art. 8 Quorum at the Complaints Boards
The Complaints Boards are convened by their Chairperson or Vice Chairperson. The Banking and Investment Complaints Boards and the individual Sections of the Insurance Complaints Board constitute a quorum when the Chairperson or Vice Chairperson and at least half of the Members are present.
The Extended Section of the Insurance Complaints Board constitutes a quorum when the Chairperson of at least one other Section, the Chairperson or Vice Chairperson and two Members are present.
Art. 9 Examination of a dispute
A dispute is initiated at FINE through a complaint sent in writing or in electronic form. The customer shall specify the service provider constituting the adversary party and the monetary claim, request for a declaratory statement or other claim, stating the reasons.
The Complaints Board follows a written procedure unless it, in its composition examining the dispute, decides, for a particular reason, to hear the litigants or other parties orally. The decisions made in the Complaints Board meetings will be recorded.
On its own initiative, the Complaints Board may hear experts or ask for an expert opinion. The expert cannot be a person with an employment or similar relationship to the service provider with the product under examination, or any person who could not be heard as an expert under the Code of Judicial Procedure.
Art. 10 Annulation of examination and dismissal of the case without examination of its merits
The case will be annulled if the customer does not specify the complaint, despite being invited to do so, or withdraws it. The case will also be annulled if the customer’s agent does not present an appropriate authorisation from the customer.
FINE is entitled to dismiss a dispute being processed in the Bureau or the Complaints Boards without examination under the following circumstances:
- the customer has failed to first seek resolution of the issue through direct contact with the service provider
- in a banking, investment, mutual fund or crowdfunding case, the complaint was received by FINE later than three years from the time of appearance of the error or defect that the complaint is based on
- in an insurance case, the three-year period for filing a suit under the Insurance Contracts Act had expired before FINE received the complaint
- the same dispute is being or has been examined by a court of law or the Consumer Complaints Board, the Traffic Accident and Patient Injury Board or a similar alternative dispute resolution body
- the dispute does not involve a monetary or other financial interest
- the dispute is unfounded or motivated by a wish to cause intentional harm
- the reliable resolution of the dispute would call for oral evidence, a party to the dispute has behaved in a threatening manner, or the nature of the dispute would otherwise seriously hamper the efficient operation of FINE.
Art. 11 Decision-making and voting
The Complaints Boards seek to issue unanimous decisions. If the Members of a Complaints Board fail to reach unanimity after examining the issue, the Board must take a vote.
The presenting official is not part of the composition issuing the recommendation for a resolution and cannot participate in the vote. The opinion seconded by the majority of the Complaints Board Members will carry. If the vote is even, the Chairperson will cast the decisive vote. For the rest, the voting will be covered by the provisions of the Code of Judicial Procedure concerning the principles of voting at a court of law.
The recommendations for a resolution are sent to the parties in written or other permanent form. After a decision is taken by the Bureau, a dispute can be examined by the respective Complaints Board if the customer so requests for a justified reason.
Art. 12 Rectifying errors
FINE will re-examine a case already resolved if there is a weighty reason to do so. Weighty reasons may relate to decisions that have been based on clearly erroneous or incomplete information or a manifestly incorrect application of law or situations where a procedural error has occurred in the decision-making process. The parties will be informed of the re-examination.
The presenting official appointed as the Head of Section of the Complaints Board may correct any obvious typing or calculation errors or similar clear errors in the Board decision. The Head of Section may also decide whether or not the Complaints Board will re-examine a case already resolved.
The member of the Bureau personnel in charge of dispute resolution may correct any obvious typing or calculation errors or similar clear errors in a decision issued through the procedure in the Bureau, or decide on the re-examination of a case already resolved.
Art. 13 Preliminary ruling procedure at the Complaints Board
If a Complaints Board receives or the Board Secretariat expects to receive several complaints on the same interpretative problem or other issue related to a particular service provider, the Complaints Board can, to expedite the examination of the cases, take up one or two of these similar cases for a preliminary ruling. Since such decisions by the Complaints Board constitute preliminary rulings, they are knowingly issued with the aim of providing guidance.
Once the preliminary ruling procedure has started, any further complaints on the same issue shall wait for the pending preliminary ruling. The parties to the cases at hand as well as other customers involved in the issue will be informed of this.
Art. 14 Compliance with the resolution recommendations issued by FINE
The Signatory Parties find it important that the financial sector service providers comply with FINE’s resolution recommendations.
Art. 15 Publicity of the resolution recommendations
The resolution recommendations issued by FINE are public, unless otherwise stipulated by the relevant Board or the member of personnel in charge of dispute resolution at the Bureau. However, the names of the parties involved are not made public.
Art. 16 Term of office
The terms of office of the FINE bodies and Complaints Boards, as well as of the Bureau personnel in charge of dispute resolution, are three calendar years at a time. If a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Member or Deputy Member or a member of personnel in charge of dispute resolution resigns in the middle of a term, a new person will be appointed for the remaining term.
Art 17 Free access to services for customers
FINE’s services are available to customers at no charge.
Art. 18 Costs for the organisation
Finance Finland (FFI) will cover FINE’s costs. Service providers who are not members of Finance Finland must, however, contribute to FINE’s costs when they use FINE's services.
Art. 19 Confidentiality
Members of FINE’s Supervisory Body, Executive Committee and Complaints Boards as well as FINE officials are covered with the same confidentiality obligation as that provided by the Act on Credit Institutions, the Insurance Companies Act, the Act on Common Funds and the Act on Investment Services.
Art. 20 Amendment of the Regulations
The present Regulations can be amended or they can be terminated at the initiative of a Signatory Party.
Art. 21 Entry into force of the Regulations
These Regulations enter into force on 1 January 2021. They will revoke the precedent FINE Regulations, applied as of 15 April 2019.