FINE - The Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau

Regulations

Regulations of the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Service (FINE)

These Regulations are in force as from 1 January 2016.

The Signatory Parties of this contractual arrangement are the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, the Financial Supervisory Authority and the Federation of Finnish Financial Services.

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 the 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 Committees, the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau as well as the Insurance Complaints Board, the Banking Complaints Board and the Securities Complaints Board.

FINE's core operations include its advisory, information and dispute solution services. However, FINE does not provide investment advice, nor perform individual product or service comparisons.

In examining disputes, FINE follows the fair trial principles 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.

Disputes 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, or the service provider has made a specific agreement with FINE on the use of the dispute resolution services. Without such specific agreement with FINE, the cross-border disputes based on the free offer 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:

  1. adopt the FINE budget and Financial Statements, including the Annual Report;
  2. appoint the Committees and determine the remunerations payable to their Members;
  3. elect the Auditor;
  4. adopt the FINE strategy and decide on the general terms of employment and additional signing rights granted to the personnel;
  5. appoint the Managing Director of the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau as well as the Director; and
  6. 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 Financial Supervisory Authority, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority and the Federation of Finnish Financial Services each appoint one Supervisory Board Member and Deputy Member. In addition, these Signatories may together invite Board Members who represent the Ministries covering the sphere of operation of FINE.

Art. 3 Executive Committees

FINE has separate Executive Committees for the specific issues in insurance, banking and securities.  

FINE’s Executive Committees shall:

  1. provide the Supervisory Board with an annual draft Budget and Action Plan related to each Committee’s area of competence;
  2. present the Supervisory Board with an Annual Report and account for the funds allocated to each focal sector of the organisation;
  3. engage in debates and present opinions on the questions of principle or issues that are otherwise topical for each focal sector of the organisation; and
  4. make initiatives to develop the regulation and business practices in their respective areas of competence.
  5. The Executive Committees may appoint operative bodies to address issues assigned and defined by the Committee.
  6. The Insurance Executive Committee can decide to institute new Sections under the Insurance Complaints Board as well as to make changes in the insurance line competence between the different Sections.
  7. The Insurance Executive Committee is also responsible for appointing the Chairpersons and Members and Deputy Members of the Insurance Complaints Board, determining the remunerations payable to the Board.
  8. The Banking Executive Committee is also responsible for appointing the Chairpersons and Members and Deputy Members of the Banking Complaints Board, determining the remunerations payable to the Board.
  9. The Securities Executive Committee is also responsible for appointing the Chairpersons and Members and Deputy Members of the Securities Complaints Board, determining the remunerations payable to the Board.

 

Both the Banking and Insurance Executive Committees have eight Members while the Securities Executive Committee has six Members. Each Executive Committee elects its Chairperson and Vice Chairperson among the respective Committee Members.

Half of the Insurance Executive Committee Members represent the authorities and organisations while the other members are appointed by the Federation of Finnish Financial Services.

Half of the Banking Executive Committee Members represent the authorities while the other members are appointed by the Federation of Finnish Financial Services.

One of the Securities Executive Committee Members represents the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, two Members represent Osakesäästäjien Keskusliitto (the Finnish Shareholders Association) while the Financial Supervisory Authority has one and the Federation of Finnish Financial Services has two representatives.

Art. 4 Decision-making by the Supervisory Board and the Executive Committees

The Supervisory Board and the Executive Committees 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 Committees 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 fulfil the following tasks independently:

  1. provide advice and assistance to consumers, small businesses and other comparable customers in insurance, banking and investment issues;
  2. conciliate customer disputes over insurance, banking and investment issues and issue resolution recommendations  in the areas of competence of FINE’s Complaints Boards
  3. promote the general financial literacy by producing information material targeted at the customers;
  4. provide information on the issues raised during the daily operations of the Bureau;
  5. prepare comparisons of financial products and contribute to the preparation of the legislation related to the financial sector;
  6. make proposals and issue opinions to the FINE Supervisory Board, Executive Committees and to other parties, as the nature of the issue may require, on questions related to legislation, contractual terms, customer information as well as services provided by financial sector companies, based on observations made during the operations of the Bureau;
  7. act as the secretariat for the Supervisory Board, the Executive Committees and eventual other bodies instituted by FINE as well as for the Insurance, Banking and Securities Complaints Boards as well as manage the FINE internal finances;
  8. and perform any other tasks assigned to it by the Supervisory Board or the Executive Committees.

 

The Chairperson of the Supervisory Board, the Managing Director and the Deputy Managing Director, each of them alone, are entitled to sign for the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau. The Supervisory Board will decide on the issue any other authorisations to sign for FINE.

To complete its advisory functions, the Bureau provides customers with guidance and information. The customers are offered information on applicable contractual terms and legal provisions as well as the resolution practice of the dispute solution bodies. In addition, the Bureau will inform the customers about the available appeal and dispute resolution possibilities.

Art. 6 Responsibilities and areas of competence of the Complaints Boards

The mission of the Complaints Boards is to promote a good insurance, banking and securities market practice 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 of the insurance company in question. The Insurance Complaints Board does not examine issues related to the statutory accident insurance and patient insurance policies. The statutory motor liability insurance issues are examined by the Insurance Complaints Board only if the dispute is of private-law nature and outside the competence of the Traffic Accident Complaints Board or corresponding 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 Securities 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 Service Companies and Act on Common Funds.  The recommendations focus on the application of the legislation, provisions by the authorities, good securities market practice and contractual terms as well as on the action of the service provider. The recommendations can also address the amount of the compensation. The Securities Complaints Board will not examine claims related to companies other than investment service companies or fund management companies.

The Complaints Boards do not examine the question of reimbursement of expenses incurred for the complaints addressed to them. However, the Insurance Complaints Board can examine the dispute over the question whether these expenses are covered by the legal expenses insurance.

For a particular reason, the Complaints Boards can provide courts of law, the authorities or other corresponding parties with expert opinions in individual litigations related to their specific sectors of competence.

Art. 7 Composition in dispute issues

Handing of the case by the Bureau

Acting as the secretariat for the Complaints Boards, the Bureau will seek to resolve disputes between the parties. The Bureau will give resolution recommendations on the solution of cases with an established resolution practice or cases which are unambiguous in terms of the application of the law or contractual terms.

The disputes are solved by Bureau personnel specifically appointed for these tasks by the FINE Managing Director. The Bureau personnel in charge of dispute solution must have the professional and legal expertise required for the purpose, and they must have an employment relationship with the FINE Bureau.

Complaints Boards and Sections

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 Bureau asks the Signatory Parties of the organisation to appoint 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 the decision in the case at hand based on the preparatory proposal made by the Secretary who acts as the referring official.

Banking Complaints Board

The Banking Complaints Board has four Members and the Chairperson. The Banking 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 the Federation of Finnish Financial Services.

Securities Complaints Board

The Securities Complaints Board has four members and the Chairperson. The Securities 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 the Federation of Finnish Financial Services.

Insurance Complaints Board

The Insurance Complaints Board activities are divided into Sections.  Currently, there are five Sections.  

  • Section I examines life and personal accident insurance issues as well as those 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 the household, voluntary motor vehicle, farm, real estate, animal, motor liability and boat insurance policies. Moreover, it will also cover other consumer-related lines of insurance not falling within the competence of Sections I, II or V.
  • Section IV examines issues related to the 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 the pharmaceutical injuries insurance.

 

For a particular reason, the Chairperson can order which Section will examine the case.

The Insurance Complaints Board is composed by the Board Chairperson and Section Chairs. The Chairperson of the Insurance Complaints Board also chairs the Extended Section and one Section.  The Section Chairpersons act as his/her Deputies and chair one or several Sections.

Sections I, II, III and V have four Members, with Deputies, and the Section Chairperson. Section IV has six Members, with Deputies, and the Chairperson, plus the additional Members, with Deputies, for the examination of forwarding and consultation liability issues.  The Complaints Board Members and Deputies can also serve in Sections other than the one to which they have been appointed.

The Insurance 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 the Federation of Finnish Financial Services. The Executive Committee will appoint the Members of Section IV among the candidates proposed by the Federation of Finnish Financial Services, the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK and the Federation of Finnish Commerce, while the Deputy Member candidates are proposed by the Federation of Finnish Financial Services, the Association of Finnish Lawyers, the Helsinki District Court 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 the Federation of Finnish Financial Services.

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 simplified procedure, the Board is only 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 Insurance Complaints Board and the Section 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, with reasons.

The Complaints Board follows a written procedure unless the Bureau or Complaints Board 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 withdraws the complaint.

The FINE Bureau and the Complaints Boards are entitled to dismiss the dispute without examination under the following circumstances:

  1. the customer has failed to seek solution of the issue through a direct contact with the service provider
  2. in a banking or securities case, the complaint was received by FINE later than two years from the last contact of the customer with the service provider regarding the issue at hand
  3. in an insurance case, the three-year period for filing suit under the Insurance Contracts Act had expired before FINE received the complaint
  4. the same dispute is being or has been examined by a court of law or the Consumer Complaints Board, the Traffic Accident Board or similar out-of-court dispute resolution body
  5. the dispute does not involve a monetary or other financial interest
  6. the dispute is unfounded or motivated by a wish to cause intentional harm
  7. the reliable solution of the dispute would call for oral evidence or the nature of the dispute would seriously hamper the efficient operation of FINE.

Art. 11 Decision-making and voting

The Complaints Board seeks to issue unanimous decisions. If the Complaints Board Members 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 resolution recommendation, nor can he/she 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 principles on voting at a court of law pursuant to the provisions of the Code of Judicial Procedure.

The decisions by the Bureau and the Complaints Board 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 request 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 related to decisions that have been based on clearly erroneous or incomplete information or apparently wrong application of law or situations where a procedural mistake has taken place in the decision-making process. The parties will be informed about a new examination.

The presenting official appointed as the Head of Section of the Complaints Board may correct any obvious typing or calculation errors or corresponding 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 solved.

The member of the Bureau personnel in charge of dispute solution may correct any obvious typing or calculation errors or corresponding clear errors in the Board decision or decide on the re-examination of a case already solved.

Art. 13 Preliminary ruling procedure at the Complaints Board 

If the 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 the similar cases for preliminary ruling. Taking the character of the preliminary ruling procedure into consideration, the decisions of the Complaints Board constitute knowingly made outline resolutions.

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 the FINE resolution recommendations.

Art. 15 Publicity of the resolution recommendations issued by the Complaints Boards

The resolution recommendations issued by the Insurance, Banking and Securities Complaints Boards are public unless the Boards otherwise order. However, the names of the parties involved are not made public.

Art. 16 Term of office

The term of office of the FINE bodies and Complaints Boards as well as that of the Bureau personnel in charge of dispute solution, is three calendar years at a time. If a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Member or Deputy Member or a member of personnel in charge of dispute solution resigns in the middle of the term, a new person will be appointed for the remaining term.

Art 17 Non-cost service for the customers

FINE’s services are provided free of charge to the customers.

Art. 18 Costs for the organisation

The Federation of Finnish Financial Services will cover FINE’s costs. The service providers who are not members of the Federation of Finnish Financial Services but use FINE's services must, however, contribute to the FINE costs.

Art. 19 Confidentiality

The Members of the Supervisory Body, Executive Committees, Complaints Boards and any other bodies of FINE as well as the Bureau officials are covered with the same confidentiality obligation as provided by the Act on Credit Institutions, the Insurance Companies Act, the Act on Common Funds and the Act on Investment Service Companies.

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 2016. They will revoke the precedent FINE Regulations, applied as of 1 August 2012.