Simon Read: Complaints' numbers show that lenders failed again

Around 900 people a day complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service between April and June this year about being missold payment protection insurance. That was at the height of the banks' refusal to face up to the scandal and their attempts to delay paying out compensation to millions through pointless legal delays.

Now that the banks have put aside billions to compensate victims, I'd been hoping that was that. But the focus will be back on the scandal in the autumn when the banks will have to admit how many complaints they have had and how many they've dealt with.

You'd hope that any complaints coming in now would get a positive reception but experience has taught us that the banks will do all they can to make things as difficult as possible to people to get the money they are owed. The Ombudsman knows this too, which is why principal ombudsman Tony Boorman had to say this week that "It is difficult to tell whether we will be seeing still higher numbers [of complaints] yet, or whether the figures will now start to decline." Logic says the numbers of complaints taken forward to the Ombudsman should now begin to shrink. Experience suggests the opposite.

The second subject most complained about by people in the first quarter of the year was credit cards. The number was tiny compared to the number of complaints generated by PPI (5,500 compared to 56,025) but it is significant. Ignoring the PPI figures altogether shows that credit cards have consistently generated the most complaints to the Ombudsman over the past three years and around two-thirds of the complaints have been upheld.

Next comes current accounts, where only a quarter of complaints are upheld. That's as you would hope, and would indicate that banks are handling complaints fairly (although in the case of current accounts it's actually more to do with the fact that banks controversially won their case to keep high penalty charges, meaning the Ombudsman has had to reject complaints). But the fact that so many credit card complaints are consistently upheld shows that plastic card companies are consistently failing to treat customers fairly. That must change.

s.read@independent.co.uk

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