Providers that are top of the complaints’ league

Among all the discussion about bankers’ bonuses and the flouting of interest rate information, bankers could spare a thought for their customers.

In any business, matters can go wrong but the continued failure by financial providers to correct mistakes and give proper resources to a complaints team is staggering.

The Financial Ombudsman has provided a public service in naming the culprits: those who consistently disappoint customers. The information is tucked away in an obscure part of the Ombudsman’s website but deserves proper lighting.

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For the first six months last year, it shows Barclays in pole position for complaints at 23,703, followed by Lloyds (12,235), MBNA Europe (9,187), Bank of Scotland (owned by Lloyds, with 7,836) and HSBC (7,164).

Many potential clients choose products and services based on the experiences of others. Insurance is typical and in some fields – like motor – mandatory. Be warned that most general insurance complaints were made against UK Insurance (RBS owned with 1,541), AXA Insurance (557), Aviva (435) and Royal & Sun Alliance (412).

Those considering opening a bank or credit card account might like to be forewarned about those providers who raised the most complaints: Barclays (3,208), Spanish-owned Santander (2,510), Bank of Scotland (2,480) and MBNA Europe (2,440). Apart from its own clients, the latter offers ‘white label’ finance for other organisations.

The public only takes cases to the Ombudsmen when the provider has not answered a problem satisfactorily. Those who have the grit and determination to proceed with a complaint appear in these figures.

After three ‘complimentary’ investigations annually by the Ombudsman, a £500 case levy is raised, regardless where blame is later placed. In any commonsense world, providers would settle without the cost and public shame of a referral.

At Barclays, new chief executive Anthony Jenkins is bravely attempting to clear out the management deadwood and was sensitive enough to decline a £1m plus bonus. Royal Bank of Scotland’s chief (83 per cent taxpayer-owned) has taken similar action.

Yet no such humility is seen at Lloyds where the public owns 40 per cent. There is still time.