In France every bank must offer the services of a médiateur but the médiateur will only intervene as a last resort. If you are faced with a problem, your first step is to write to your branch/account manager.

If this is unsuccessful, you should then contact the bank’s Customer Service Department at Head Office. If this step also fails to bring about a satisfactory solution, the médiateur can then become involved.

However, the médiateur cannot be involved if a legal procedure has been started by either party or if a legal decision has already been reached. The main areas covered by a médiateur are:
* Account management
* Means of payment
* Bank transactions

For savings accounts, loans, or insurance, the bank will be able to give information on whether or not the médiateur can be involved. The médiateur service is available for personal account holders. The services of a médiateur are free.

Procedure:

The médiateur should be contacted in writing, and the file sent to them should be as complete as possible, including your personal address and bank details, a description of the dispute between yourself and the bank, copies of all documents/letters, an outline of steps taken by the bank and a statement of what you expect as a satisfactory response.

Once the file has been studied, the médiateur will make a suggestion for a solution that will be proposed to both parties. (The response time of the médiateur bancaire is usually two months).

This solution, however, is only a proposition – banks have only a moral obligation to abide by the médiateur’s decision; neither you nor the bank is required to accept it. If the médiateur declines a case or if the bank refuses to follow the steps proposed by the médiateur, the client’s last option is to take the case to court.

Many banks use the médiateur service provided by the Féderation Bancaire Française (18 rue la Fayette, 75009 Paris). Some banks have their own service but in all cases, the address should be indicated on a bank statement.

Ian McDonald is head of International Clients services for Barclays Bank in France.
With branches right across the country, our dedicated English-speaking teams can help you buy your ideal French home…to find out more or get in touch, please visit www.barclays.fr.

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