Taiwan’s Financial Consumer Protection Act (FCPA) came into force on 30 December 2011.
The Financial Ombudsman Institution (FOI) was established under the Act as a public-interest foundation whose mission is to resolve disputes between financial consumers and financial service providers including banks, securities firms, and insurers.
The FOI’s board members are appointed by the Financial Supervisory Commission. The current board consists of seven directors, all of whom are academics at Taiwanese universities. The two supervisors are a retired high court judge and the director of the Commission’s Legal Affairs Foundation.
In turn, the directors appoint the Ombudsmen, who are tasked with deciding disputes. The Ombudsmen serve three year terms. Currently, there are 19 Ombudsmen, 14 of whom are academics.
The FOI officially started operating on 2 January 2012.
The Taiwanese government has endowed the FOI with NT$1 billion in operating funds. (c. US$33 million ).
The FOI is supervised by the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC).
Participating financial services firms will contribute to the fund based on how often disputes occur.
Financial firms enter into a contract with the FOI under which they agree to be bound by decisions. Pressure from the market and the Financial Services Commission will probably force most firms to sign up.
The FOI does not charge consumers for its services.
Consumers begin by filing a complaint with the financial service firm, which has 30 days to respond.
If the consumer is unsatisfied with the response, she may bring her case to the FOI. The FOI will try to mediate the dispute before deciding it. Participating financial service firms are bound by decisions of the FOI, which can award an aggrieved consumer up to NT$1 million.
By the end of March 2012, the FOI has received over 1,200 complaints. Eighty percent were insurance cases. Eighty percent of these were life insurance cases.
In more than 30 cases, the FOI has not been able to mediate a dispute successfully and has had to decide the case. The consumer has prevailed in three cases so far and received damages. The largest award has been in a life insurance case. The policy was rescinded and the insurance company was ordered to pay back NT$1 million (c. US$35,000) in premiums.
According to the FOI, about 40% of the complaints have been settled.