Subsection (6) lays down the general principle that before the Ombudsman can consider a complaint the consumer must have given the financial service provider concerned a reasonable opportunity to deal with it. This is as it should be. The aim is that financial service providers should avoid causes for complaint and when complaints are made make a real effort to deal with them in a way that is satisfactory to their customers. If one examines the legislation as a whole and the particular sections, one can see clearly where they fit into the scheme and context of this Bill. In Section 57BX one will see that section 6 as drafted is an integral part of the overall scheme of how complaints are conducted. I am authorised to say that subsection does apply to the credit union movement.
The amendment moved by Deputy Richard Bruton seeks to include the words "and in the case of a Credit Union has made reasonable efforts to use fully the dispute resolution options which are available to the consumer as a member of the Union". Deputy Burton tabled a similar amendment. Deputy Ó Caoláin also referred to the exhaustion of all dispute resolution options available to a complainant under the credit union rules.
The substance of this is included in the more abstract language of subsection (6) which provides that a consumer is not entitled to make a complaint unless the consumer has previously communicated its substance to the regulated financial service provider concerned and has given that financial service provider a reasonable opportunity to deal with it.
The credit union movement is to be much commended for having such detailed procedures in place in its internal rules and that very much protects its position under the new subsection (6). However, when drafting legislation, it must have general application. I join in the tributes which other Deputies have made to the credit union movement. The Minister had very detailed discussions with the credit union movement about the substance of this Bill. It does not mean that one must include it by express reference in every subsection of the Bill. The Bill, as drafted, meets any legitimate concerns it has. One cannot after subsection (6) state that as well as covering every financial institution it also covers the credit union movement. Clearly the language of section 6 as drafted covers that. It provides that any financial service provider, including a credit union, should have a reasonable opportunity to deal with matters. What constitutes a reasonable effort is something the Ombudsman would examine in co-operation with IFSRA's consumer director.
Clearly the fact that the credit union movement has a detailed code on this matter is very much in support of its position. It has already gone to the trouble of laying down a detailed internal code on this matter, and there will be a presumption in favour of that, although the Ombudsman can review these codes or determine that they should be improved in certain respects. I am not clear on the position in other financial institutions, whether their codes are as well developed. I suspect they are not. The position regarding credit unions is that they are fully protected.
I hope complaints against credit unions are few, given that their customers are also members. For the same reason every effort can be made by a credit union to settle complaints in preference to going to the Ombudsman. However, if a consumer is not happy with the way the credit union has dealt with the complaint that person, having exhausted the internal procedures of the credit union, has the same right as a customer of any other financial institution to have a complaint dealt with by the Ombudsman within a reasonable period.
I hope Deputies can appreciate that I cannot accept amendments that would prevent a consumer from bringing a complaint to the Ombudsman until unspecified dispute resolution procedures have been exhausted.