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Is your bank a good problem solver?

Crossword filled in with bank names

The way a bank handles its complaints says a lot about its attitude to customer service. So are banks working hard enough to address their customers’ complaints and learn from their mistakes?

Not long ago, I asked my bank to change my address after I’d come back from living abroad – a fairly simple task you might think.

However, the bank continued to send my post to the other side of the world for six months before it actually managed to update my records.

Although I made lots of calls to my bank about the problem, I never actually registered a complaint. It seems strange to me now, but this is not uncommon. Our latest research on banking complaints found that a third of people who had problems with their bank didn’t register complaints.

Don’t be afraid to complain

Most and least bank complaintsOne in five said they didn’t complain because they didn’t think their bank could solve the problem. And our research shows that, in many cases, they might be right, as a fifth of complaints weren’t dealt with satisfactorily by the banks.

We estimate that 12 million people – a quarter of all UK bank customers – have had problems with their current account over the past year.

Overall, poor customer service was the most common problem for customers across all the banks.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, complaints that resulted in financial detriment, such as difficultly getting money back after a fraudulent transaction, were the most likely to be logged.

Banks should learn from their mistakes

Although occasional problems are inevitable, the way a bank handles complaints is important. If banks want to win back our trust, it’s vital that they sort out their complaints handling. When things go wrong, banks must act swiftly and fairly to deal with the problem, identify what caused it and make sure it’s not repeated. Some banks are getting this right, but they all need to do more to put their customers first.

Have you complained to your bank recently, and were you happy with the way it dealt with your complaint? Would a bank’s complaint numbers influence your decision to switch to them?

richard says:
14 April 2013

So Far – I’ve been using First Direct for around 20 years – I have only had ONE problem – that of a fraudulent transaction passed by the Bank for £3.50 – that I reported – and the same fraudster removed a further £300 a day or so later. Complained and the £303.50 was repaid and my cards etc changed within 24 hrs. But their communication system is second to none 24/7 – unlike my previous bank – So I will keep with them. I am very satisfied.

I will also stick with First Direct because they spotted that my account had been hacked, alerted me and stopped it .

Lloyds, on the other hand, can’t get two pieces of information (or paper) together and sent what they called ‘important information’ about my ISA elsewhere. Then took ages to get me a further copy and misdirected it again. No faith in their ability to learn.

Idu Miah says:
14 April 2013

I do believe that the ‘Which’ investigation into banking problems could not be more timely. The investigations reaffirms my thoughts that the finance sector has to provide services that are more suitable during these difficult times, appropriate for their customer needs and products that are appropriate for individuals and businesses. I have experienced current account problems recently and it only leads me to state that the banking sector could and should work more closely with their customers to understand their business and that should enable the banks provide a professional service that is reasonable and productive for us all.

Complained to Halifax recently as they failed to pay my annual interest on a Websaver account. Phoned 0845 number twice and had to enter lots of detail before getting through to staff member.
On each occasion the advice was unsatisfactory so I filled in the company’s complaint form and was contacted on the telephone early the following day. The representative was full of apology, saying that it appeared to be a computer problem and that that and the unsatisfactory advice would be investigated. He made a satisfactory financial offer for both the cost of my phone calls and the inconvenience caused. The moral is never give up on these firms, but I do wish they were more efficient st the first time of asking!

While banks, usually with automated systems, process millions of transactions smoothly and successfully that we now take them for granted, it’s led to them hopelessly inept when anything out of the ordinary crops up.

Call Centre staff work from on-screen scripts and are not encouraged to think for themselves – so we end up with a set of rules, like ‘er indoors, that must be obeyed. This in turn leads to no or can’t (won’t ?) being the standard response to anything out of the ordinary.

You only have to read the Conversations about Power of Attorney and related issues to see countless grievances where banks just do not understand what’s involved, and in many cases do not even stop to consider the impact of their actions. The domino effect then kicks in – customer raises and issue -> bank doesn’t know what to do so is dissmissive -> customer then has to escalate to a formal ‘complaint’ -> bank becomes unhelpful and customer is no better off. Outcome = stress, anger, frustration – and banks carry on without a care, doing only what they want to do.

With some banks, the practice seems to be that if you try to get someone to listen and understand that there is a problem, it gets labelled as a complaint and you are shunted off to the Financial Ombudsman – only to wait months for no significant benefit.

It’s only when thousands of people are affected (eg PPI misselling), that any concerted action results. And the bunch of regulatory bodies appear to do very little to help with make things better.

Yes, I’ve had serious problems with a bank – where customer service and complaint handling is the pits – and while all sorts of helpful consumer people and groups have agreed that it’s not good enough, nothing has changed. I despair.

KarenA says:
26 May 2013

Complaining is a waste of time!

Lloyds TSB Bank refused to pay a standing order from our account even though we had the cleared funds in the account on the day that the standing order was due. Their reason? They now claim standing orders 24 hours in advance even on a Sunday and because of payments due out on the Monday the funds were short because they refused to take into account the standing order from another Lloyds TSB bank account going in on the Monday that the payments were due and that they were obviously also claiming at the same time 24 hours earlier.

They insisted that this was normal procedure even though it is obviously a new process set up to disadvantage the customer as the account has been quite happily fed by standing order for the last 2 years without this problem occurring. I complained that they were duty bound to pay my standing order because the funds were there.

Their way of dealing with my complaint was to record it on a computer somewhere, where it seemed pretty obvious that nobody was going to look at it. They did refund the charge but not because they had done anything wrong but because they are allowed to refund one charge on the basis of goodwill every 12 months. So I followed it up in writing where I was told this is part of their normal procedure which it obviously was not because the account had always allowed standing orders in and out on the same day previously. Again, it was obvious that my complaint was of no significance and would only ever be looked at by the clerk dealing with it. There was no process for escalation. So I put my complaint to the CEO but no response.

Whilst the lady who dealt with my complaint to the ombudsman was sympathtic, there was nothing they could do either. I can no longer have my standing orders going out on the same day as they go in. I have to check them at the end of every month to see how many days I have to leave between them taking into account weekends and bank holidays. I have to change the dates every month. The result is that I no longer trust my bank and I have no faith in their complaints process or their standing order process for that matter.

Idu Miah says:
26 May 2013

The comment that was posted by Karen A is a typical example of how some of the banks are behaving these days. I too have story that I could post but I do not have the time and energy to go through such headache of having write it up.

I believe the banking sector has lost focus. I think the way they do their business today is a direct result or a product of how they conducted themselves in the past and over the past two or three decades. Careless and irresponsible lending for many years has caused a big hollow in their liquid assets. They have squandered way their reserves and this happened over at least a couple of decades. They certainly changed their policies in terms of reserves. It is this inappropriate attitude and a culture to earn more today but not thinking about tomorrow has led them to behave a very unfriendly way that we see currently.

The retail banking sector should and could provide a much wider range of products and services but instead we as customers are faced with limited and inadequate products. There is ample evidence that the banks should concentrate on what is that customers need by way of a retail banking service. People all over the country need to borrow money but borrow at affordable rates and I am not talking about massive amounts here. It is quite obvious that there are so many loan sharks in operating in the retail sector creating very serious financial difficulties for people by lending then short term but very expensive loans. Many people fall into a trap of having to borrow at up to 4000% or similar.

There is certainly a great scope for the banks to connect with the retail sector customers and provide a better range of products. They should stop being greedy and stop wanting to invest more and more in investment banking. The retail sector can be far more profitable if they spend a little time and learn more about the customers demands. There is plenty to be gained here and overall, there is a real opportunity for them to contribute towards the economic well being of our beloved country.

I have recently complained to Halifax regarding misleading information on my account.

Halifax has recently introduced a ” £50 Buffer” which they describe as;
“An amount of planned or unplanned overdraft on which you don’t pay any interest or fees. If your account is overdrawn by less than the buffer amount, you won’t pay anything for using it.”

This all seemed pretty clear to me but a few days ago when my credit card direct debit pushed me £16 into the Buffer they returned the Direct Debit. On checking with Halifax, they informed me that using the buffer does not guarantee payment – which I find misleading. Had I known this I would have made an earlier payment to avoid going into the Buffer.

Apart from the inconvenience caused, the credit card company has charged me a fee for the returned Direct Debit.

My main concern is to help others avoid the same problem. After checking with a number of family and friends who all agreed that it was not clear, I complained to Halifax requesting that they amend their documentation (on the website and within the terms and conditions) as I feel that I am not an isolated case and others are also being caught out.

Halifax have indicated that my complaint will be escalated, but that I could not expect a final reply as they do not discuss changes to terms and conditions – even when a specific complaint has been raised. I’ve been told the only way I could see if my complaint had been implemented was to keep checking the T&C’s each time they were updated (with a minimum of 3 months notice inbetween changes).

Firstly; I would be interested to hear other views on whether they also feel the “Buffer” description is misleading. Perhaps we are in a minority in assuming that payment requests that used a “buffer” would be honoured?

Secondly; If you raise a complaint with your bank, I feel that you should be given a final answer as to their findings and not left guessing as to whether or not it will be implemented.

What do others think?

LAURA says:
14 February 2016

I have just made my complaint to Halifax bank, but complaint was not accepted, they are trying to say it’s not their fault!
I tried to transfer my own money to my friend’s account at 2am, was not happened, so called the bank customer services, been told system would be back on at 4am, I waited until 4:07am, tried to draw the cash from Genting’s casino cash desk, got an decline, since it has declined, then I can not try again until 7am(casino policy)could not pay back my friend as I have promised, had to pay £50 to get a return trip to get the cash to pay off my friend. I tried to speak to Halifax customer service again to make an complaint, but been cut off for 2-3 time before I can reach the complain department, finally got through, but not helpful at all.

Please advise me if I can have my £50 as my compensation to cover my lost.


This comment was removed at the request of the user

I bet the T&C’s say there is no assurance of uninterrupted availability of funds or transfer facilities. Always keep something in the teapot on the mantelpiece in case of an emergency. I wonder why the casino declined to pay out – that could have been the real cause of the ‘loss’.