‘Kyne hopeful for legislative change to allow for sole trader complaints to be heard by Financial Ombudsman’
Fine Gael Galway West Deputy, Seán Kyne, is encouraged by the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan’s willingness to examine amending legislation to allow sole traders to bring complaints against banks and other financial institutions to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO).
Currently, sole traders are unable to complain to the FSO about the conduct or service provision of banks due to a stipulation in the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act (2004) and Statutory Instrument No. 190 of 2005.
This legislation defines sole traders as ‘natural persons acting in the course of, or in connection, with the carrying on of a business’ and excludes them from being viewed as consumers which in effect makes them ineligible to bring complaints against banks to the regulatory authority.
Commented Deputy Kyne: “This issue was first brought to my attention by a Galway man who operated a successful business as a sole trader. A dispute with a major bank had a detrimental impact on his business and to his dismay he discovered that, unlike ordinary citizens or small to medium sized companies, he was unable to have his complaint examined by the FSO on account of being a sole trader.
“Such a situation leaves sole traders, of which there are over 84,000 in Ireland, in a vulnerable and exposed position. I am very encouraged from the response to my representations and following discussions between Department of Finance officials and the FSO Council and Bureau, Minister Noonan has confirmed to me that the FSO is ‘not opposed to the granting to sole traders access to the Financial Services Ombudsman to hear complaints against financial institutions.’
“Minister Noonan pointed out, however, that an amendment through primary legislation is required and has requested his officials to ‘review this issue with a view to seeking an appropriate legislative vehicle to bring a proposal before the Oireachtas to effect this change’.
“Unfortunately,” concluded Deputy Kyne, “such a change would not be retrospective but this case emphasises how local people and businesses can, by highlighting issues and concerns, prompt national change and, in this instance, improve the business environment for sole traders.”