/ Money

What one rule should banks stick to?

Man holding up a red card

If I could ask my bank for one thing it would be, ‘know your customers’. Don’t try to sell me things I’m not even eligible for. We’re collecting your bank rules and giving away a Kindle to the best entry.

There are two things my bank loves to do: offer me a mortgage (I’ve already got one) and ask me why I didn’t get a mortgage with them (they wouldn’t give me the money).

Luckily they’ve stopped doing this on the phone, but it doesn’t stop the branch staff going for the hard sell.

It’s time to call the shots for World Consumer Rights Day

As the name suggests, World Consumer Rights Day is the day when consumers come together to show companies that their views are vital. Consumers International (the United Nations equivalent to consumer groups) sets the theme each year and this year it’s fair financial services.

To celebrate the day, we’re offering you the chance to tell us what you want from the banks. All you have to do to take part is follow Which? Action on Twitter and post your rule using the hashtag #bankrule. We’ll choose the five best rules and open it up to a public vote on 4 April 2011 to decide the winner.

Win an Amazon Kindle

We love a good competition here at Which?, but there is a point to us asking for your ideas – we’ll be using them when we present to the Consumers International World Congress in May.

If that isn’t enough motivation, there’s also a Kindle up for grabs. The rule with the greatest number of votes wins the Kindle!

To inspire you, I’ve asked my colleagues around the office what their rules would be. Here’s a selection:

  • Financial Services Chief Advocate Doug Taylor said, ‘Bank staff should tell me what commission they get for a sale to me.’
  • Financial Services advocate Lucy Widenka said, ‘Banks should give customers the best deals they can get, not just the deal they are promoting at that time.’
  • Money Editor James Daley said, ‘All bank charges should be proportionate to the cost – and shouldn’t be used as a way of bolstering profits.’

We’d love you to share your ideas here, but please note, if you want to enter the competition you’ll also need to send us a tweet to register your entry.


There are many but I would say treat customers in difficulty fairly


Hows about reverting to exactly what banks were supposed to be in the first place?

-You save some money, you get a certain percentage return on it.
-You want to borrow some money, you pay a certain percentage (which is more than the saving rate) in order for the banks to cover their costs and make a profit.

Anything outside of these rules should be run under an “investment bank” arm of the company so as not to jeopardise the stability of the economy.

Our countries economies are based on banking stability. If they are allowed (under the high street name) to frivolously invest in risky enterprises, then this should have absolutely no effect on the BAU (business as usual) of the high street arm that we all rely on.


Thanks for you comments here. We’ve had some great suggestions on Twitter for bank staff to dedicate 4 days per year to charity work and to help, not harass, customers. Great to read your thoughts here, but please remember if you want to formally enter the comp, you’ll need to tweet at @WhichAction with the hashtag #bankrule.


I don’t and won’t use Twatter,
I’m not 14,
so the compo is out of reach.

Tim says:
16 March 2011

Remove targets for packaged accounts. We know what targets did for PPI…..it meant that sellers forgot the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable sales. There are many cases around where those boundaries are very much being used to push packaged accounts that are, on the whole, a complete waste of money. Furthermore their illustrations of predicted savings should be based on discounted rates rather than on non discounted and bank own policies(generally over priced). Consultation on packaged accounts coming up later in the year…..can you tell I’m preparing for it already?
The bonuses should be more tailored towards good customer service rather than the lema of “sales with service”.

Ciara says:
16 March 2011

Banks shouldn’t charge for becoming overdrawn if you replace the funds within twenty fours.


Why is Which? telling its subscribers that the only way they can participate fully in this exercise is by tweeting on Twitter? Banks are accessible and customer-focussed institutions by comparison!


We’re very happy to have feedback for the banks in all shapes and forms. We’ve had some great ideas on here, on facebook and Twitter. We’ll be going along to Consumers International World Congress in May so all your tips will influence our recommendations at Congress.

The Twitter part is just the formal way to enter the comp to win the Kindle. We had to limit the remit of the competition in some way in order manage the entries. Plus we thought it would be a nice challenge to limit people to a tweet with 140 characters.


I agree with John. If anything, the Consumers’ Association should be doing more to alert the public to the problems with these and other social networking sites rather than encouraging us to use them.


I’d love to agree with John, however, I regularly post on other forums, Twitter included (@dpaj_co_uk) to make sure that Banks et al, ‘do’ get back to basic fundemental principals of actually not playing around with what is my money. By all means Banks, play around with what profits you make so long as mine remains safe and accessible 24/7, but don’t ever jeopardize mine or anyone else’s, buy finding ever more devious ways to relieve our hard earnt funds. Worse still, is relying on the Government to man the lifeboats when all goes belly up, all in the name of profit and inflated salaries, for what are ‘their’ mistakes!

Banks must refine their services so being ‘here’, yea or ney, for it’s cause, as wherever else is a good thing. If Banks could and would do it properly, we both wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.


Don’t you think restricting the prize winner to someone who Tweets is rather an objectionable road for Which to commence on? Is this Which? policy?


Thanks wavechange, you raise an interesting point here. We are calling for more transparency from social networking sites as explored here:
And thanks for your comments dieseltaylor. We appreciate Twitter isn’t for everyone. We hope you don’t feel too left out from this one – I’ll bear this in mind when planning future competitions.


Choosing to use Twitter only for for Competition entries whilst simultaneously running a Which? article about people using Facebook and Twitter whilst driving seems a rather beautiful juxtaposition.

I am not quite clear what you mean by bearing in mind – does that mean in future platform posting neutrality will be observed?

Hugh says:
24 March 2011

I would love to give you my ideas, but I do not “Tweet” – I have neither the time nor the inclination to become involved in such trivia.
As such you are disciminating against Which? members who do not take part in “social netwroks” (or as I call them “UNsocial networks”).

Please desisit form doing this.


Hello Hugh, thanks for your comment. Please do share your ideas here on Which? Conversation – we’ll be using all thoughts for bank rules when we go to the Consumers International World Congress in May. However, you just won’t be able to enter the competition this time around. Thanks.

Steve says:
24 March 2011

I’d like to see current interest rates shown on the account page of all accounts which pay interest.

I don’t use twitter or facebook either.

Brendan says:
24 March 2011

As holiday season will soon be upon us, I am reminded that the “margin” on exchanging my pounds for Euros is around 20% (ie they sell at 1.20 and but buy at 1.00. Commercial business will get a rate much closer to the REAL EXCHANGE RATE.
Why are banks allowed to charge margin, when providing money is their stock trade. FX brokers are generally closer to the mark thatn the high street banks.
Is it all something to do with the fact that we get our Euro’s “Commission fee”?????? NOT.
Why don’t “Which” take this up as a campaign?


Holding physical currency notes does not earn any interest for the Bank or exchange office. Add the security costs for shipping small packets of money around the country and hedging for currency risks make it a more complcated business than me asking they send £1000 to a foreign account. I would get a much better rate,. I use Travelex for cash and the pre-paid Euro denominated card.

As for what we want from Banks – the most popular move would be to stop them diverting finance to fictitious deals with “foreign” subsiduaries. Barclays obtained a writ removing “stolen” details of the scheme from the Guardian’s website in 2009.

All UK taxpayers may mourn the multi-millions/billions of tax avoided “legally” each year and wonder if promotion of this knowledge and threatened consumer boycotts might actually be most effective in curtailing Banks behaving in this manner. RBS actually closed down their department who dealt in the same way – after becoming publicly owned.

Copies of the original documents are at Wikileaks and a a Google search will bring up the newspaper comments in 2009. For further reading on off-shore banking for avoiding paying tax there is a new book by Shaxson. You will be shocked.

In a global context to help those who suffer in looted countries, and taxpayers paying more than their fair share due to artificial banking shenanigans an end to tax havens and the banks who facilitate them would be a great start.

So in less than 140 words:
“Tax havens rob everyone and banks are the lifelines for the havens. Consumer pressure can work”

In case you wonder I think in 2009 the papers said Barclays had 160-260 off-shore companies.

Brian says:
24 March 2011

I refuse to engage with such inane occupations as tweeting, and am surprised that you would stoop so low.


Thanks for your comment Brian. For fear of going off-topic, it’s worth mentioning the benefits of Twitter and why we’re on it.

Which? Conversation too has it’s own Twitter account (@WhichConvo) which, like our other Twitter accounts, not only lets us engage with more people in the UK (to gain further support for our card surcharges super complaint, for example) but also to engage with companies. You’ll find that many of the comments on Which? Conversation made their way here from Twitter, with companies like British Gas also joining us to defend themselves.

So that’s how we use it, but as far as yourself getting use out of Twitter, you too could interact with companies, with many using it as a port for their customer services (though it would be nice if they listened more).

As for my one rule for the banks? Remove the bonus culture and reinvest this surplus money into stabilising the economy and improving front line services.

Chuckwallah says:
25 March 2011

People on low incomes can become overdrawn because their wages have taken an excessively long time to pass through the banking system while their dirct debit payments have not. The difference may be less than one day but the bank nevertheless makes a charge on the overdraft, and sometimes even sends a letter at further cost. This practice takes advantage of the most vulnerable, it is despicable and appears to be deliberate. Banks shoud have a duty to “be reasonable” about when they declare a customer to be overdrawn.

I would also like to add my objection to the use of Twitter as an exclusive entry point to the competition. I don’t even have a mobile phone because I find it impossible to make out what people are saying. Which? is surely dedicated to consumer choice, it is worrying that you are jumping on the bandwagon that is gradually forcing everybody into a particular groove to avoid being discriminated against.

Steve says:
25 March 2011

I’m not using bloody twitter, and I also object to your insistence that I should.

However – a rule for the banks (assuming that they own the credit card companies). Have one or two addresses that are valid for deliveries of mail-order goods (cardholder not present). One (1) is the cardholder’s billing address. The other (2) maybe their workplace or a relative’s address if goods cannot be safely left on the doorstep. Possibly exempt florists. But everybody else ordering something expensive on a stolen card doesn’t get the benefit, just becomes a nuisance! Implemented as a further input on a PDA machine – delivery address 1 or 2, and the printout specifies where it has to be delivered to.

Credit card fraud cut by 99.9% in one simple go. And the banks can get rid of the PCI compliance bulls*it that makes them so much money from small businesses.

IAN says:
28 March 2011

Banks should stop treating customers like a cash cow and treat us like customers.

I will not be entering this competition because I do not use facebook, twitter or any of the numerous unsocial forms of communication, Which is in danger of losing touch with their readership


Re: Patrick Steens comments on Twitter.

Twitter is a commercial US company which despite some shakiness in it’s securing of customer info is projecting a profit for 2011. They take money from commercial clients. My concern is that like Reddit, Digg and MySpace [and CB radio] these are “fashions” and as comercial pressures dominate will fall out of favour.

“MySpace, meanwhile, has fallen 55 percent to a market share of only 30 percent — about half of Facebook.” http://www.pcworld.com/article/190034/after_numerous_shakeups_is_myspace_dying.html

Profit projections for Twitter are here:
and more up-to-date news here:

I suspect a Wiki based approach to conumer items and subjects might be a more satisfying use of the Internet for Which? members and the public. And given it would be run by Which? and UK based and controlled it would not be subject to any US problems.

I too apologise for going off-topic but as it seems to be a concern for many perhaps it is worthy of discussion.


I too object to limiting a competition to Twitter users, surely quite a small proportion of ‘Which’ subscribers. Can you offer a 2nd Kindle to anyone who does not use Twitter?

My one idea is that I would like banks to offer a one time code for online transactions. i.e. every time I am asked to divulge my credit or debit card details over the phone or online, My identity is confirmed from a list of numbers, supplied by the bank, each of which can only be used once.

This would not replace the PIN for use when I use the card in person and no one has access to my card details. The list could be safely left at home (or password protected on a computer), and kept separate from the card.


Whenever I deal with banks, as in my final paid off mortgage termination with Barclays, I’m amazed how inefficient and slow they are – despite always being ready to threaten me if I have a problem.

The response from them was atrocious and I had had to make two formal complaints to get a person to contact me and sort out their self-made mess. (Note: I had a Woolich BUILDING SOCIETY mortgage until bought out).

Recently I dealt with Nationwide, a real Building Society, the difference was amazing, the feeling of value and consideration was dramatically different.

Return business?
Barclays & Banks = 0
Nationwide = 100%

My message to Banks – “Treat customers as people – not income generation targets.”

I don’t and won’t use Twatter – so the compo is a dead issue and inappropriate for Which!
It’s nothing more than a teenagers toy.
Yes – I use IM, e-mail and mobile cell phones, yes I am qualified to teach IT
so its not Ludditism – its just well pointless!


The five finalists are in! You can vote for your favourite bank rule here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/personal-finance/bank-rules/vote-for-a-rule/


So here are the finalists. Given they were weeded for practicality the first one seems a bit of a stretch. BTW how many entries were there? Us non-Twits are agog.

* Banks should be open by 0600 for those who can’t get out during lunch.
* Banks should tell you in plain English when interest rates change.
* Banks can’t drop rates on old savings accounts and offer higher rates on new accounts that have exactly the same terms.
* Banks should not give new customers better deals than loyal existing customers.
* Don’t contact customers when they see an amount of money enter their account with a view of selling something.


A quick update on the competition as it closed at midnight last night. There were over 3000 votes in total, and the winning bank rule was:

‘Banks should not give new customers better deals than loyal existing customers.’

To find out more, and see what we’re doing to take your suggestions forward, you can read the news article here: