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Do you use the ‘dirty’ word complain?

You hear the stat 9,000 per day and what do you think? Number of children skipping school, number of people offered jobs or even the number of  Which? Convo comments. Sadly, the answer is bank complaints.

Figures released today show the number of complaints received by banks and building societies increased by 29% in the second half of 2011.

In total, 1,660,578 complaints were received during this period. That’s 9,000 per day or six per minute!

Data released by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) show that one of the main drivers for the increase has been a rise in the volume of complaints about (surprise, surprise) payment protection insurance (PPI). The number of PPI complaints rose by 85% to a whopping 977,510.

Our old enemy PPI

This is not a revelation to us as every week nearly 500 people use our free online payment protection insurance tool to issue a complaint to their PPI provider.

With the FSA publishing these stats every six months, most banks now want to avoid being the company splashed across the headlines the next day as individual banks are branded the worst for complaints. Sadly, that’s likely to be Barclays, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Santander featuring on tomorrow’s headlines.

The desire of bank bosses to avoid such headlines should hopefully lead to those people who deal with your complaints to do so properly and avoid your case becoming another statistic.

Banks hit the headline

The regulator should be using this information to highlight good practice and expose those in the industry that are performing badly – cue the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The FCA’s head, Martin Wheatley, recently provided a guest post on the site and Frugal Ways challenged him on the issue of complaints:

‘Will you take notice of individual complaints or will, as we do now, have to see thousands of identical complaints before you will even look at the issue?’

Martin said the FCA ‘cannot afford to wait for issues to affect a large number of consumers before we act’.

We want the FCA to be a watchdog consumers can count on, and by shining a light on what people are complaining about, they are giving firms a nudge in the right direction to improve their act.

Have you ever complained to your bank? How did you find the process? Do you think the release of data like this makes them take complaints more seriously?


Any FSA-regulated business must have their dispute resolution (“complaints”) procedure formally documented and implemented – and the customer needs to be made aware of it at point of sale.

Basically, a customer who makes “any expression of dissatisfaction”, whether verbally or in writing, will (or at least should) trigger the company’s dispute resolution procedure. It is actually helpful if you start your letter or telephone call with the words “I wish to complain about ….”, because there is then no doubt that the customer is dissatisfied and wishes their complaint to be dealt with by an appropriate individual, not just whoever was unlucky enough to pick up the case.

So, no, I don’t think release of data will make companies take complaints more seriously. They are already obliged to take all complaints seriously, by following their documented processes and responding within fixed time periods – provided that you make it clear from the outset you are complaining and not just having a bad day.

By the way, where do you think the FSA get their complaints data from? The financial institutions themselves – so it should come as no surprise to them what the level of complaints is within the industry.

Nationwide Building Society – when we bought our present house in Ledbury in 1975, there was a full branch in Ledbury. Sometime in the 1980’s they closed it and opened an agency in one of the insurance brokers in town. A few years later they had to move it to another insurance brokers when the first one closed.
About 3 years ago, they closed that agency and said they were going to relocate elsewhere in town, and that they would keep us informed of progress. They didn’t !!!.
Last year nothing had been heard so I complained and was told they were not going to replace it.
There is a branch in Malvern about 8 miles away, but it is at the top of a very steep road with no car parks close by. It is difficult to access if you are elderly, infirm or have a pushchair.
There is also a branch in Hereford, some 15 miles away, about 45 minutes each way on the bus, or 30 minutes by car then pay £2.00 to park.

Not very good service when there are about 10,000 people in Ledbury, with several thousand more in nearby villages.

So you see it’s not just the banks treating their customers with contempt.

Honestly – The few complaints I have ever made over the last 50 years has been treated quickly and courteously by the branch concerned virtually without question except say proof of purchase. But some companies are not very helpful or courteous when I wish to deal with them – So these I leave instantly. ..