Frequently asked questions

This section provides answers to questions that many people ask us. If you can’t find what you are looking for then please call us on 1300 78 08 08, 9am-5pm AEST/AEDT Monday - Friday.

Click on the links below to see commonly asked questions in these categories:

Interest rates and service
  • Can I complain about interest rates and fees?

  • The Financial Ombudsman Service does not regulate the banking industry and so we cannot review the interest rate policies of financial services providers. However, if you believe that your financial services provider has applied an incorrect interest rate to your loan – in error or in breach of a contract - then this is a matter that we can consider.

    Similarly, we cannot consider disputes about fees and fee levels generally. However, if you believe that you have been charged a fee incorrectly (ie a fee not in accordance with your contract), then this is a matter we may be able to consider.

  • Can I complain about bad service, branch closures or long waiting times in branches?

  • No – these are service issues, and we are unable to consider complaints about service. If you wish to complain about these sorts of matters, contact your financial services provider’s Customer Relations area.

    To read more about the types of disputes we can consider, please have a look at our Terms of Reference.

  • I had an account years ago. What happened to my money?

  • The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) provides a service for recovering unclaimed money. Check the ASIC website to find out if any unclaimed money is listed in your name.

    If you believe that your financial services provider has lost your money, contact us or lodge a dispute and include as many details as you can about your account.

Loans
  • Can I complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service about a bank’s refusal to give me a loan?

  • No. We cannot consider a dispute about a financial service provider’s commercial judgement in relation to lending or security. We cannot make a financial services provider provide you with credit, and we cannot make them give you a reason for why they declined your application for credit.

  • I have an agreement with my former business (or life) partner that they will make the payments on a loan that I was previously liable for. Now the bank is chasing me because my former partner is behind on the payments. Can I complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

  • That depends on whether the bank was part of the agreement you made with your former partner. If the agreement was just between you and your former partner, then the bank does not have to follow the terms of the agreement. You are still ultimately responsible for the loan, and the bank can still require you to make the payments. In these circumstances, we could only consider your request for assistance if you are in financial difficulty.

Financial difficulty and credit ratings
  • I can’t meet repayments due to financial difficulty. What can I do?

  • The first thing you should do is contact your financial services provider and talk with them about your situation. Don’t ignore the problem. If you are finding it difficult to keep up your repayments, or if your bank, credit union or other financial services provider has sent you an overdue reminder and you are unable to pay, you should contact them straight away. Ask if it is possible for the financial services provider to vary your repayments for a certain time to help you overcome your financial difficulties.

    Many financial services providers have a dedicated financial hardship team that you can speak to. For more information, please read our brochure A guide for dealing with financial difficulty.

    If you and your financial services provider cannot find a satisfactory solution, you can lodge a dispute with FOS.

    If you feel that you need assistance from a financial counsellor, contact us and we can give you contact details for counsellors in your area.

  • I want a default listing removed from my credit file. Can the Financial Ombudsman Service help me?

  • We can consider disputes about credit listings and can look at whet the financial services provider complied with the relevant laws when it made the listing. We can also look at whether a credit file contains inaccurate information.

    If you believe that a listing has been made in error, or your credit file is inaccurate, lodge a dispute with us and provide a full copy of your credit file and details of the error.

    We cannot make the financial services provider remove a credit listing unless the listing contains an error.

Credit cards
  • My credit or debit card was stolen. What should I do?

  • If you have not already done so, you should contact your financial services provider immediately and have the card cancelled.

    If transactions have been processed to your card since it was stolen, ask the financial services provider what you need to do to dispute the charges. If, after you have questioned them, your financial services provider still considers you liable for any charges that you consider were unauthorised, you can lodge a dispute with us.

  • I have an agreement with my former business (or life) partner that they will make the payments on a credit card that I was previously liable for. Now the bank is chasing me because my former partner is behind on the payments. Can I complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

  • That depends on whether the financial services provider was part of the agreement you made with your former partner. If the agreement was just between you and your former partner, then the bank does not have to follow the terms of the agreement. You are still ultimately responsible for the loan, and the bank can still require you to make the payments. In these circumstances, we could only consider your request for assistance if you are in financial difficulty.

Privacy
  • I believe that my privacy has been breached. Can I complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

  • We can consider disputes about privacy breaches by financial services providers. Alternatively, you can take your complaint to the Federal Privacy Commissioner.

Insurance cover
  • Who can help me get insurance cover?

  • You can contact insurers directly. The Insurance Council of Australia has an online tool to help consumers find insurers that provide the products they require. You can find it at www.findaninsurer.com.au.

    If you are looking for an insurance broker, you can visit www.needabroker.com.au to search for the contact details of an appropriate broker.

  • I am self employed and have to obtain public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance. My car and home and contents insurer will not do this. Where do I go?

  • Some general insurers will only take on domestic risks, not business risks. Depending on your occupation, you may be able to obtain a small business insurance package with one of the larger insurers. Alternatively, an insurance broker or adviser will be able to assist you.

    Visit the Insurance Council of Australia’s ‘Find an Insurer’ tool at www.findaninsurer.com.au to contact insurers directly, or visit www.needabroker.com.au for contact details of an appropriate insurance broker.

  • Can an insurer refuse to insure me?

  • Yes. However, you can ask the insurer why they have refused to insure you. If you are unhappy with their reasons you can ask the insurer to review their decision through their internal dispute resolution process.

Insurance claims
  • How long should it take to process a claim?

  • The time frame for processing a claim will vary depending on the type and complexity or severity of the claim. Your insurer should be able to give you an approximate time frame and keep you informed on the progress of your claim.

  • What can I do if the claim process is taking too long?

  • If you are not happy with the time your insurer is taking to process your claim, you should contact the claims manager. If you are still unhappy with the response you should ask the insurer to review it through their internal dispute resolution process.

  • Is my insurer entitled to have an investigator look into my claim?

  • Yes. In some instances your insurer may wish to confirm whether a claim is genuine and may appoint an investigator to examine the claim. You should cooperate with the investigator and provide them with the information you are asked for. In some cases this may include your driving history, financial records, telephone records or criminal history. If you are unhappy with the way the investigator questions you or if you have concerns about the information asked for, please inform your insurer.

Home buildings and contents insurance
  • Does my home and contents policy cover me for flood or water damage?

  • Your insurance policy document will explain what is and what is not covered by your policy, and will provide definitions. If you are still unsure, you should contact your insurer and ask them for more information or assistance.

  • Can my insurer insist on replacing lost or stolen items instead of settling by cash?

  • It depends on your policy, but generally most contents policies say that the insurer can replace stolen or lost items instead of settling for cash. Check your policy wording for more information, or contact your insurer to ask them. If the stolen or lost items are special and cannot be replaced, you can ask your insurer if it will settle the claim for cash.

  • Do I have the right to select my own tradesman to repair damage?

  • Your insurance policy will indicate whether this is possible. Check your policy wording for more information, or contact your insurer to ask them.

Motor vehicle insurance
  • What can I do if I am not happy with the insurer's offer for the total loss of my motor vehicle?

  • If you feel your insurer has undervalued your motor vehicle, you will need to provide evidence supporting this. You can research the price of similar motor vehicles of a similar condition on the internet, through magazines and newspapers, and in dealers' guides.

    Ask your insurer how they calculated the amount and provide them with the information you have found. If you are still unhappy with the offer, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed through your insurer's internal dispute resolution process.

  • My insurer has decided my motor vehicle is a total loss. Is my insurer entitled to keep the balance of the 12-month premium I’ve paid, plus the vehicle registration and salvage?

  • Generally yes, but it depends on your policy wording so check your policy or contact your insurer.

  • Am I entitled to a hire car if the motor accident was not my fault?

  • Generally no, unless it is specifically provided for in your policy. You will need to check your policy wording or contact your insurer.

  • How do I claim against the other driver where the motor accident was not my fault?

  • You can send a letter to the driver at fault with a quote for repairs and ask them to pay the cost of damage to your motor vehicle, or get legal assistance to do so. If you are insured you may wish to submit the claim through your insurer.

  • Do I have to pay an excess and will I lose my no claim bonus if I have a motor accident that is not my fault?

  • Some insurance policies require you to pay the excess each time you make a claim, whether or not you are at fault . If your insurer is satisfied that you were not at fault, your insurer may attempt to recover the cost of repairs from the other driver. If the other party accepts they were at fault, your no claim bonus will be reinstated and your excess may be refunded. Check your policy wording or ask your insurer for more information.

  • Do I have the right to select my own repairer?

  • Your insurance policy will indicate whether this is possible. You may wish to ask your insurer. Some insurers charge an additional premium if you want to be able to choose your own repairer.
Travel insurance
  • I am over 70 and would like to travel. Can I get travel insurance?

  • It is important to consider what you need at the outset and look at the available policies to see which one best meets your needs. Many insurers have identified that as we grow older and wealthier, many of us are travelling more. As a consequence there are a range of policies available exclusively for senior travellers.

    The most important thing is to make sure that when you apply for insurance, you are clear about any pre-existing medical conditions, particularly those related directly or indirectly to heart disease. Future claims can be rejected if you did not disclose this information to the insurer before your purchased the policy.

    You may still be able to purchase insurance cover for pre-existing medical conditions by paying an additional premium.

  • I have recently been unwell. Will that mean that I cannot get travel insurance cover?

  • Many of us get sick. What is important is to work out if what you have experienced is what your intended insurer regards as a ‘medical condition’. The definition of an existing medical condition, and the conditions that apply to it, vary from policy to policy. So it’s crucial that you check with your travel insurer how your travel policy defines an existing medical condition, including who it will apply to. Usually an existing medical condition is:

    - Any new medical condition, or ongoing medical condition, for which medical advice or treatment (including prescribed medication) is sought, within a specific timeframe before buying travel insurance.

    - In some policies, any condition or symptoms for which you have received medical treatment, advice or investigation may be considered to be an existing medical condition, even if a diagnosis has not been made.

    To help you decide whether you have an existing medical condition, ask yourself the following questions:

    - Have you seen a doctor or other health professional recently?

    - Do you take any medication?

    - Do you have a chronic or ongoing medical condition?

     

    Tell your travel insurer if you answer “yes” to any of these questions.

  • Can I obtain cover for my existing medical conditions?

  • You may be able to obtain cover for your existing medical conditions. Ask your travel insurer how this affects your policy – you may be asked to pay an assessment fee or an additional premium, or the insurer may apply special terms and conditions to your policy.

    Some existing medical conditions may be automatically covered so check the policy wording. If you’re unsure, ask your travel insurer before you buy the policy. If cover is not provided for your existing medical condition you may still be covered for any new or unrelated conditions that arise during travel, as long as other policy conditions are met.

    To apply for cover for existing medication conditions you need to:

    - Provide an application form or medical appraisal form that has been completed by your treating doctor – this will be at your own cost. Your travel insurer can provide further details about this process.

    - Allow sufficient time before you travel to apply for cover for existing medical conditions, in case there are delays in assessing your application.

    - If you need to visit your doctor between buying your travel insurance and travelling, check with your travel insurer about whether your medical condition will affect your insurance.

  • What am I covered for with my travel insurance policy?

  • Insurance companies have an obligation to express potentially devastating policy terms in language their customers can understand and appreciate. This is a requirement of the law which governs all insurance contracts.

    Before you take out the insurance cover, make sure you read and fully understand the policy details so that you are sure what is covered and what is not covered. If you need help at any stage, make sure you ask the insurer for clarification.

    If you have any questions regarding a general insurance topic or you have a dispute with your insurance provider and are unhappy with the decision made after review by the insurer's internal dispute resolution service, please contact us.

  • What if I need medical care while I am away?

  • Travel insurance policies usually provide cover for unexpected medical care required outside Australia, including doctors’ and hospital fees, repatriation to Australia if necessary, additional travel costs and cancellation costs. Many travel policies include an Assistance Line for overseas travellers to help with locating medical help and assist with language difficulties that may arise when the unexpected occurs.

    Your travel itinerary and guide books will help you get a better understanding of the level of cover you may want to consider. It is important to make sure that your travel policy provides you with sufficient cover for medical costs. These can be extremely high in some countries, such as the USA and Japan. So check the limits that your policy applies to cover for medical expenses in the region you are travelling to.

    Travel insurance policies are for travel outside Australia so keep in mind that you will not be covered for medical expenses incurred within Australia.

  • Is there an excess if I make a claim?

  • An excess is a minimum amount you must pay toward your claim before your travel insurer covers the rest. You need to check the value of the excess applicable to your policy. With some policies you may be able to remove standard excesses if you pay an additional premium.

  • Are there any limits to the luggage or personal effects covered by the policy?

  • As a general rule, cover for your luggage and personal effects will be limited. So it’s important that you check the per-item limit, as well as the total baggage cover provided.

    It’s also important to understand that cover for items such as jewellery, cameras, laptop computers, designer clothing and other expensive items may also be limited. In some instances, you may be able to increase the level of cover for your luggage and personal effects by paying an additional premium. Check your options to determine the best policy or cover for your needs.

  • What extra precautions should I consider in relation to my travel insurance?

  • Ensure that you understand the circumstances in which cover is NOT provided as conditions vary from policy to policy. One of the things that your policy will require you to do is take reasonable precautions to safeguard your luggage and personal effects. This means taking care of your luggage and personal effects at all times. To do this, make sure you:

    - look for safe storage facilities such as a hotel safe, particularly for high value items which may not be covered if left unattended

    - keep your luggage and personal effects within your sight and in your control, particularly when in public places such as airports, hotel foyers, bus or train depots, eating places and telephone booths

    - remain vigilant – thieves often try to distract you or strike when you leave your belongings or turn away just for a moment

    - don’t leave your belongings lying around on a beach when you go swimming, and don’t leave them with someone you’ve just met

    - consider the alternatives – if you’re thinking about leaving your belongings somewhere, such as in a compartment on a public bus, could you instead take your bag with you to your seat, or take the expensive items (such as cameras) with you?

    While you can never pre-empt every situation, the more conscious you are the more likely it is that you will not be seen as an easy target.

  • What is not covered by a travel insurance policy?

  • You may be surprised to learn that the following items might not be covered by your policy:

    - items which are stolen when left unattended in a public place

    - electronic items such as cameras, computers, mobile phones & jewellery unless they are carried with you

    - items left in a motor vehicle for any period of time, particularly overnight

    - cash.

  • Will all of my luggage and personal effects be covered?

  • Generally, policies do provide cover for the accidental loss or theft of your luggage and personal effects. The detail of what is and isn’t covered, however, varies from policy to policy. Therefore it is very important that you take the time to read your travel insurance policy carefully before you buy it. You should also refresh your memory before you travel to be clear about:

    - the conditions of what is/what is not covered

    - the steps you need to take to make a claim in the event something goes wrong

    - what you can expect from your travel insurer and what they expect of you.

    This information is available in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and policy wording of your travel insurance policy.

  • What do I need to do if something is stolen when I am travelling?

  • The first step is to be prepared before you travel.

    Although this sounds like a lot of work when you are already busy planning a trip, the following steps can make it much easier to process your claim:

    - make a list of the items you are taking with you, especially new or expensive items

    - gather up original receipts and credit card statements

    - obtain current valuations for valuable items where possible, or if you can’t find receipts, take photos of these items

    - leave all of this documentation at home, where you can access it in the event you need to make a claim.

     

    If you are unfortunate and a loss does occur, then you need to get evidence by:

    - making a report to the relevant authority, such as the airline, hotel or local police, within the timeframe required by your insurer, and obtain a copy of the relevant authority’s report.

    - obtaining contact details or statements from witnesses, if there are any, to support your claim.

    When you make the claim, give a clear account of the events that have caused your loss. Make sure you have read the claim form carefully and make sure you submit all the required documentation. This will help prevent delays in the assessment of your claim.

  • My credit card includes travel insurance. Do I need additional cover?

  • There are a number of ways you could qualify for Credit Card travel insurance, which will vary from policy to policy. You may qualify for this benefit if you: - acquired a particular Credit Card

    - pay all or a specified amount of your travel costs using the particular Credit Card

    - use award points earned on your Credit Card to pay for your travel costs.

    It is important to understand what activates the insurance cover so you know if you are covered or whether you need to take out other insurance cover.

    It is also important to understand the nature of this cover and how it operates. Be aware that with this type of insurance it’s the bank or credit provider that is treated as the insured under the policy – and not you –  because it’s the bank or credit provider that has arranged the cover with the travel insurer. That’s why it’s important that you obtain a copy of the wording from your bank or credit provider, read and understand the cover, and ensure it meets your needs before you book your travel.

    If you are relying on travel insurance that is part of your Credit Card benefits, it is crucial that before you book your travel you:

    - obtain a copy of the policy wording from your bank or credit provider

    - read the policy wording carefully to ensure that it meets your personal needs or situation

    - understand what you need to do to ensure that cover has been activated and is in place - check to see whether existing medical conditions can be covered.

     

    Only then can you be sure you have the right cover in place.