Consumer complaints against financial services still remains high according to new figures with half relating to the insurance sector.

The Financial Services Ombudsman has said his office received almost 7,300 complaints during 2011, with almost half related to the insurance sector.

Almost half - 3,500 - new complaints were received in the last six months of 2011.

Bill Prasifka said the number of complaints had levelled off after a number of years of record increases, but added that the level remained high. He said this showed the continued pressures faced by consumers, particularly in mortgages.

More than 40% of complaints against banks were linked to mortgages, while more than a fifth of insurance complaints were about payment protection or mortgage protection policies.

The ombudsman also reported a 6% increase in complaints about investment products in the second half of 2011.

€1m was awarded to consumers in the six-month period as a result of findings by the ombudsman, though the percentage of complaints upheld has fallen slightly. Mr Prasifka said recent trends indicated that financial firms were taking on board his office's calls to actively engage with consumers about complaints.

Mr Prasifka said that it has been the Financial Services Ombudsman's long-stated position to encourage financial instutitions to actively engage with consumers when a complaint is raised to try to resolve matters as soon as possible. He said that recent trends show that some institutions are taking on board the FSO's findings and guidelines.

''However, the industry must continue to change is practices in dealing with consumers and make genuine efforts to work with Consumers before complaints are referred to the FSO. It is very clear that such engagement is to all parties' benefit,'' he added.