Number of complaints shames the high street banks

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The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the successor to the little-lamented FSA, has revealed the appalling figures for complaints to our high street banks for the second half of last year.

These are the statistics that providers wanted to keep hidden. They preferred summary numbers to be released or, at best, no indication of who was behind specific complaints.

The oxygen of publicity unmasks a catalogue of unresolved issues.

Barclays leads the way and should hang its head in shame with 414,302 complaints, followed by Lloyds TSB which is 38.8 per cent owned by the taxpayer and received 349,386 complaints.

Close on their heels with 338,912 was Bank of Scotland (which includes the Halifax), MBNA with 270,486 complaints and Spanish subsidiary, Santander UK with 237,923.

Banks with a strong commitment to good customer relations should not have anything like these numbers. They should put adequate resources into supporting staff and product sales.

If they responded promptly and adequately to any genuine concerns, no reference on to the FSA and now FCA would be necessary.

By postponing their responses, they are losing goodwill and creating yet further work. The total compensation paid out by the banking industry in just the last six months of 2012 was a staggering £2.95bn.

By subject, payment protection insurance causes most complaints, up five per cent, followed by current accounts. Non-PPI general insurance is up six per cent, followed by complaints on credit cards.

The FCA’s chief executive, Martin Wheatley, says that publishing the figures will force institutions to act: “When I meet the bosses of the financial institutions, they frequently tell me that they don’t want to be at the top of the table.”

The statistics are also meant to be a carrot so that comparisons can be made between banks and other financial organisations.

The jury is out.

New products are still streaming forth and complaints handling procedures regarded as non-urgent. It would be good if the former was halted for a time whilst the backlog in complaints was brought right up to date.

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