Simon Read: Don't take no for an answer if you complain to your bank

Two major banks are facing million-pound fines for their poor complaints handling. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has refused to name the banks concerned but rumours suggest they are likely to be the government-owned Lloyds Banking Group and RBS. In fact, the City watchdog has demanded five banks change the way they deal with complaints, while referring two to enforcement for further investigation, which generally means fines will follow.

The news will come as no surprise to anyone who has had dealings with any of the high-street banks lately, as customer service has become appalling. But the FSA's latest investigation uncovered the shocking fact that the banks have been paying staff bonuses if they kept complaint levels down to certain levels.

That's shocking because it confirms that delaying tactics and passing on misleading information about customers' rights was not just the actions of a few rogue staff but, by dint of the bonus payments, the unhelpful behaviour was effectively bank policy. "This is another damning indictment of the banking industry, many of whose members consistently put sales before customer service," the Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, says.

"Bonuses should be linked to treating customers fairly and the resolution of complaints, not to sales. What's more, consumers have the right to know which banks the FSA is referring to its enforcement division. If the UK's banks want to win back the public's trust, then they must fundamentally change the way they treat their customers."

A quick straw poll among friends confirms the widespread dissatisfaction with banks' service – not one person says they were treated well. And that's for normal, day-to-day account handling. If banks can't provide a basic level of service, no wonder they've struggled when it comes to dealing with complaints, which have come in in their hundreds and thousands in recent times.

The FSA says it will force banks to respond properly to customers and treat them fairly. But my advice is to vote with your feet and switch accounts if you encounter bad service. Sadly, I'm not able to recommend any one bank to move to as there's evidence of bad service from all of them – which is shocking in itself.

Forced retirement should be scrapped, according to Age UK. The charity is urging the major political parties to change the law, which forced some 120,000 older workers to retire last year despite their wanting to carry on working. "The default retirement is not only an unfair, outdated piece of legislation, it also causes real harm to our economy and public finances by depriving the labour market of experienced, skilled workers who would otherwise be paying taxes," says Michelle Mitchell of Age UK.

The charity's contention is that forcing older workers to retire costs the UK an estimated £3.5bn in lost economic output in a year. "Scrapping the default retirement age is a simple step to boost public finances," says Mitchell. But it would also give people control of their own lives back.

Research from Prudential on pension saving published this week found that just over half of British savers fear outliving their pension, because life expectancy has increased and so has the cost of retirement. Giving people the right to work longer would give them more time to build up their pension pot and less time to fear living on penury. I think it's the least we should do for workers.

Government must tackle identity theft

identity theft has climbed 20 per cent in the past year, reports Cifas, the UK's fraud-prevention service. Frighteningly, the trend of identity theft where the crooks use their victim's current address has soared 45 per cent.

While the fraudsters simply want to steal our cash, the effect of the crime can be more chilling than having a few pounds siphoned out of your bank account. Victims of impersonation often report feelings of uncertainty, helplessness and not knowing whom to trust – on top of the financial impact suffered and the time taken to rectify the damage. The impact of fraud, therefore, must always be seen as something far greater than just a financial one, Cifas says.

"The prevention of this crime must be given the attention that it demands by a new government," Peter Hurst, Cifas's chief executive, says. "The National Fraud Authority estimated the cost of fraud to the UK economy at £30bn per year – and the best way to reduce this is to prevent fraud."

s.read@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Christine McCleave: Management Accountant

    £28,000 - £31,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new career in ret...

    Anna Woodward: Anna Woodward

    £25,000: Anna Woodward: My client is a rapidly expanding global company who sp...

    Beverley James: Transactions Manager

    £30,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...

    Beverley James: Sales Ledger Clerk

    £26,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower