Talking to your bank first and addressing complaints to them can solve a number of problems.
If the response was not what you were hoping for, you have the following options:
Talk to the Swiss Banking Ombudsman
You can also contact FINMA. Outline precisely what the problem is and what has happened so far. If the bank has set out its position, please enclose their response with your complaint to FINMA.
We will check whether your bank has complied with financial market law. If this is not the case, we will take action to ensure that in future the bank observes compliance with legal requirements.
You have no right to information about FINMA’s response, so we cannot tell you what conclusions we reached or what action we took. A complaint filed with the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Complaints can draw attention to possible misconduct. We are grateful for information that helps us to ensure banks run their business properly. If we have grounds to suspect that a bank is systematically failing in its duties, we will take action.
Contact the Banking Ombudsman. The Swiss Banking Ombudsman provides independent information and mediation. Client complaints about banks based in Switzerland are taken up there. Problems that cannot be resolved by the Ombudsman can be brought before a civil court.
FINMA cannot decide on claims filed by individual clients the way a civil court can. That is not within its remit. FINMA’s task is to protect client interests in general, but it cannot take up a particular individual cause.
If your bank files for bankruptcy, deposits in your name will be given privileged treatment up to a maximum of CHF 100,000. In other words, up to this amount the bank must immediately pay out any cash you request. If it does not have enough liquid assets to do so, the depositor protection scheme is triggered, as long as the branch is Swiss-based (see fact sheet). Under this scheme, the amount will be made available within 20 working days from the date it is requested by FINMA.
Unlike savings deposits, deposited assets (shares, fund units and other securities) are fully segregated and will be returned to the client. This rule applies to all deposited assets, including precious metals physically stored at the bank.
Many problems can be resolved by talking directly to your insurance company – although we recommend going straight to management.
In that case, please outline the facts clearly and transparently in writing. If possible, use our report form and attach copies of all relevant policies. If the insurance company has already sent you a letter setting out its position, please attach that too.
FINMA has an obligation under the Insurance Supervision Act to protect policyholders from any misconduct on the part of their insurance provider. Civil law disputes between insurance companies and policyholders, on the other hand, are a matter for the courts.
It is not always easy to decide what constitutes a civil law dispute and what looks like a case of abuse. Abuse means that policyholders or beneficiaries are repeatedly disadvantaged or that a lot of clients are potentially affected. A substantial difference in treatment also constitutes abuse if the insurance company does not issue a legal or actuarial justification for it.
If FINMA suspects there has been an abuse, it will seek clarification. If the abuse is confirmed, FINMA will then take action against it.
No. Personal questions or complaints do not entitle you to the disclosure of FINMA’s investigations. A complaint to the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
FINMA has a duty to act against abuse in the insurance sector. Your information could be helpful.
Policyholders can consult the following ombudsmen over civil law disputes:
For problems with your basic or supplementary health insurer, contact the Ombudsman for Health Insurance (in German, French and Italian)
For disputes related to supplementary health insurance, the Civil Procedure Code provides for simplified court proceedings. While no legal costs are incurred for arbitration and resolution proceedings, they are incurred for frivolous or vexatious litigation, which may also involve costs for the parties concerned.
Private insurers in Switzerland, including Suva, have set up a foundation to provide ombudsman services for this sector. If your insurance company is affiliated, you can contact this Ombudsman for Private Insurance.
FINMA has a statutory obligation, if so requested by a client, to verify the conversion and surrender values quoted by the insurance company. There is no charge for this service. The check shows whether these amounts were correctly determined using a method approved by FINMA.
Before that can happen, the policyholder must have sent a conversion or surrender request to the insurance company. FINMA can only check the figures once the surrender application has been processed. We will not assess whether you have been offered a fair share of the surplus or whether the costs are appropriate. These are matters of civil law and can only be resolved by a court.
If an insurer files for bankruptcy, the proceeds from realising its tied assets will first of all be used to meet claims resulting from insurance contracts. In other words, the entitlements of policyholders take precedence over all other creditors. The tied assets set aside to cover those entitlements have to meet strict legal requirements with regard to risk distribution, risk management and asset category.
Lots of problems can be resolved by talking directly to your insurer – but we recommend going straight to management.
Health insurance is regulated by two separate bodies. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is responsible for compulsory health insurance and for the optional insurance that provides daily benefits under the Federal Act on Health Insurance. FINMA is only responsible for optional health insurance which falls under the Insurance Contract Act, widely known as supplementary health insurance.
No. These are distinct insurance contracts, and so they can be taken out independently.
The downside to having two providers is that policyholders need to think about who will settle which claim. The freedom to switch your basic insurance to a cheaper provider may be a financial advantage.
No. They are part of the provider’s business plan, which means they are treated as a trade secret. FINMA is bound by professional secrecy not to reveal data like this. Companies can decide for themselves how much of this information they want to publish.
Yes, it can. Some providers will only offer a discount on your supplementary insurance if you also hold your basic health insurance with them. They are also allowed to charge an administration fee or a minimum premium if they no longer provide your basic insurance. That is because the administrative costs for managing the rest of your insurance will be proportionally higher. To be on the safe side, ask your supplementary insurer before signing up.
Yes, as long as the general policy conditions provide for this eventuality, which they usually do. Any adjustment to premiums must be reviewed by FINMA before it takes effect. FINMA will approve or reject the change, depending how solvent the product is.
As the tariffs for supplementary health insurance are often based on age categories, your premium might increase when you move up a category. If this happens, you are entitled to cancel your policy.
Policyholders must be told in good time that their tariff is going to change. If you do not agree to it, you can cancel your policy. If you do not make use of this right, the company will assume that you have accepted the change.
No. The law explicitly states that supplementary health insurance may not be terminated on such grounds.
Nearly all insurers state in their terms and conditions that they will not make use of this option, although by law both parties to a contract have the right to terminate it. The general policy conditions are decisive. Policyholders can always cancel after a claim, as long as they do so by the date of settlement.
Basically no, because in the private insurance sector any contractual changes require the explicit consent of both parties. An insurance company can, however, state in its general policy conditions that specific details (such as recognised therapists, recognised treatments, etc.) will be set out in a separate list. This list can be altered unilaterally by the insurer, notably to take on board recent medical research or to update its record of practising therapists. This does not entitle the policyholder to cancel the contract.
The general policy conditions may also state that the insurer is allowed to modify the terms to reflect changes in the health service, in particular if the statutory benefits provided by basic health insurance are redefined. As with premium adjustments, the policyholder has a right to cancel if this happens.
FINMA monitors premiums to ensure they are always justified by the benefits they offer. Adjustments must not be used to alter the tariff structure.
Insurance brokers are allowed to sell insurance. They are intermediaries who offer or conclude insurance contracts on behalf of insurance companies or other entities.
Insurance brokers are not constantly monitored. FINMA carries out spot checks to make sure they are complying with their legal obligations and takes action if there are grounds to suspect a violation of financial market laws.
FINMA keeps a central register of intermediaries, which brokers and other agents must sign up to if they are not tied to a specific insurance company. This duty to register applies to both legal entities and individuals. All other insurance intermediaries (e.g. account managers working on behalf of insurance companies) can sign up to the register on a voluntary basis. All insurance intermediaries are required to meet personal, technical and financial criteria if they wish to be included in the register.
FINMA cannot support you in a civil law dispute with an insurance broker. If you have any information about unlawful conduct by insurance intermediaries, let us know. We will always take note of your report. However, if FINMA uses the information to initiate a procedure against an intermediary, we cannot disclose any details about the status of the investigations or the outcome. A complaint filed with the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Yes. If a complaint is made about a Swiss collective investment scheme or its agent, FINMA will examine the matter to see whether there has been any violation of the relevant laws or a breach of professional ethics. If the fund is based in another country, FINMA is not the principal supervisory body concerned, so our assessment of whether this foreign fund has violated foreign law will be limited.
If there are grounds to suspect that regulatory requirements have been violated, we will seek clarification. If the suspicion is confirmed, we will take appropriate action. For foreign funds selling their products in Switzerland, FINMA is not the principal supervisory body concerned and so the measures we can apply will be limited.
No. We cannot disclose our assessment of your complaint or the measures FINMA may decide to take. A complaint to the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
FINMA cannot intervene in individual (usually civil law) disputes between investors and funds or their distribution agents. This is a task for the civil courts.
In Switzerland, independent or external asset managers, who look after a client’s assets according to agreed criteria, must be members of a recognised self-regulatory organisation (SRO) or else authorised by FINMA as a directly subordinated financial intermediary (DSFI). FINMA and the SRO supervise asset managers, but only to ensure they exercise due diligence in order to prevent money laundering. There is no comprehensive, pre-emptive prudential supervision of the kind that applies, for example, to banks and insurance companies.
You can see from the List ofdirectly subordinated financial intermediaries whether your asset manager is directly subordinate to FINMA. FINMA supervises these listed financial intermediaries solely to ensure that they exercise due diligence in accordance with the Anti-Money Laundering Act: in practice, this means checking that DSFIs apply the measures required to prevent money laundering.
Search the SRO membership directory to see whether your asset manager belongs to an SRO.
You will find the addresses for SROs here. The SRO only monitors its asset managers to ensure they comply with the money laundering rules.
FINMA will investigate whether your asset manager has complied with the rules to prevent money laundering. If not, we will take action to ensure that the asset manager adopts the correct approach in future.
No. Personal questions or complaints do not entitle you to the disclosure of FINMA’s investigations. A complaint filed with the regulator is not formally a legal procedure and it does not grant you the right to be a party to any proceedings. In matters like this, we are bound by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Complaints can flag up inappropriate conduct by asset managers. We are grateful for information that helps us to ensure asset managers conduct their business properly.
We cannot help you to enforce any claims you have under civil law. This is strictly the responsibility of the civil courts.
Tell us. FINMA analyses any unusual movements in traded securities as part of its routine market supervision. We always scrutinise big losses or gains, major product volatility and high trading volumes. Following our initial enquiries, we will decide what action to take next, such as whether FINMA needs to pursue more detailed supervisory investigations or even initiate a procedure.
FINMA is also in close touch with the stock exchange, a self-regulatory body which itself monitors activities on the trading floor, investigates unusual trading patterns and – if it is a matter of interest to the regulator – informs FINMA about such cases.
If you have suffered a financial loss after unaccountable movements in prices, we will not be able to help you. This is strictly a task for the courts.
In most cases, financial service providers have to be authorised. Beware of sharks. Money attracts all kinds of dubious characters.
If you have your doubts about a financial service provider, tell us. Providers who have not been authorised by FINMA are not systematically monitored, so feedback from investors is a useful source of information. It helps us to protect clients like you.
Every year FINMA investigates dozens of situations – if, for example, it looks as though cash deposits have been received without authorisation.
FINMA maintains a warning list of unauthorised institutions. In certain circumstances in which unauthorised business activity is suspected, FINMA can include such institutions in the list. Most of these institutions have no physical presence in Switzerland. They merely claim to have a Swiss office. When an institution does have a physical presence in Switzerland, FINMA takes direct action, for instance by appointing an investigating agent.
The institutions on FINMA’s warning list usually also feature on the international Investor Alerts Portal maintained by IOSCO (International Organization of Securities Commissions), which lists illegal operators around the globe. Even so, lists like this are never complete. It makes sense to be cautious about any financial products you are offered and to find out exactly who you are dealing with.
Take particular care if someone promises you exceptionally high returns.
The responsibility rests primarily with you. Prudence is the best defence against illegal providers of financial services. We have listed a few common scams on our website. We have also produced a Client Protection Report with a summary of recent activity.
FINMA cannot ensure systematic, nationwide, regular surveillance of unauthorised financial operators. Often FINMA can only intervene after some investors have suffered a loss.
We recommend ten precautionary measures that you can take before entering into a business transaction with a financial service provider.
FINMA keeps the following lists:
a list of authorised institutions) (licence holders and authorised products)
warning list (institutions suspected of unauthorised operations)
Other federal agencies engaged in combating investment fraud:
Federal Office of Police (FedPol)
crime prevention warnings from the Cantonal Directors of Justice and Police
tips for consumers from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
There are various ways you can contact us:
Please send questions or reporting irregularities in writing to:
Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA
CH – 3003 Bern
FINMA hotline for enquiries:
Phone: +41 (0)31 327 98 88
Open Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
To contact FINMA by e-mail or fax:
Fax: +41 31 327 91 01