At last our "lightly" regulated financial sector has been reined in with increased regulation and protection for consumers, through the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act 2008.

Financial advisers must now demonstrate a higher level of competency by being trained, registered, and signed up to a formal dispute-resolution scheme.

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) was formed in 2011 and replaced the Securities Commission. One of its roles is to police the tougher rules – and it got off to a quick start by taking action against Bernard Whimp and his low-ball share offers. Whimp specialised in making written offers to shareholders to buy their shares at prices well below current market value.

Since April 2011 financial advisers must put your interests first, which includes having an internal complaints system that's promoted and accessible to customers, and also belonging to one of four approved financial dispute-resolution schemes.

Deborah Battell, who heads the Banking Ombudsman scheme (one of the four approved schemes), says the financial dispute-resolution schemes aim "to make justice accessible to the public". The schemes are free and cut down on the time, expense and effort of going through the legal system and are much more informal than the courts.

The director of Financial Dispute Resolution, Stuart Ayres, believes providers should encourage complaints: "Usually complaints stem from miscommunication. Dispute resolution can really change relationships between consumers and financial service providers".

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