The Financial Ombudsman Institution (FOI) settled 1,626 consumer disputes over financial products or services last year, accounting for 35 percent of the complaints it received, senior officials told a news conference to mark the independent agency’s first anniversary.
More than 80 percent of the disputes concerned different readings over life insurance policies because many are sold via contracted agents over which the insurers have only limited oversight, FOI chairman Lin Kuo-chuan (林國全) said.
“The institution aims to strengthen its mediator functions to speed up dispute resolution,” Lin said.
Many consumers agree to settle disputes after seeking legal opinions from the institution, Lin said.
The institution was established on Jan. 2 last year by the Financial Supervisory Commission to provide consumers with an additional channel for settling disputes related to the purchase of financial products and services.
Under the Financial Consumer Protection Act (金融消費者保護法), financial institutions are required to address consumer complaints within 30 days of filing and to notify consumers of their disposition.
Only when either side rejects the deposition will the FOI employ the ombudsman services, Lin said.
Last year, the FOI took an average of 64 days to settle disputes ranging from the purchases of structured notes and life insurance policies to futures securities and other financial products and services, the institution’s data showed.
Eighty-two percent, were resolved within three months, Lin said.
“The damages we helped recover last year exceeded FOI’s annual operation costs roughly at NT$130 million [U$4.46 million],” Lin said.
The ombudsman body is funded by the government, but exercises its duties independently and free of charge on the part of financial consumers.
Life insurance companies generated all the NT$50 million service charges last year imposed on financial service providers for invoking ombudsman intervention to end disputes, Lin said.
The FOI will step up protection of financial consumers in the future by providing more personal privacy and legal counsel, he said.
Consumers displeased with the ombudsman decision may take their cases to court.
The FOI set up a 19-member committee to handle ombudsman cases.
Committee chairman Chuang Yuang-cheng (莊永丞) said consumers should be pleased with the speed at which disputes are settled in Taiwan, because it takes its UK peers about six months to reach a decision.