Simon Read: Finance firms should include complaints figures in adverts
Saturday 01 October 2011
Barclays Bank this week confirmed its position as Britain's most-complained about financial firm. The company attracted 251,563 complaints in the first six months of the year, almost 40 per cent more than second-placed Lloyds TSB.
Barclays defended its position by pointing out that it has actually cut the number of complaints it received about banking issues, as opposed to to the rising number of complaints about insurance mis-selling it attracted. It also promised to try to do better.
It needs to. I have some sympathy with the fact that the complaints data includes everyone who complains, even if their problem is resolved at once, or is simply the result of confusion about costs or services. But that still doesn't excuse the fact that Barclays has now topped the table of shame for the second period in a row.
If it gets a hat-trick and is the most complained-about firm yet again when the next figures are published in six months' time, I suggest Barclays be forced to add the title to its advertising so that potential customers know that unhappiness may be just around the corner.
Another thing worth noting with the latest complaints figures is the fact that the total overall number of complaints increased by 6.5 per cent in a year to 1,852,284. That means that some 10,000 complaints were made every working day in the first six months of the year.
Even allowing for the tidal wave of complaints about mis-sold payment protection insurance – a shocking scandal in its own right – the fact that banks, in the main, are still attracting such a colossal level of complaints is scandalously unacceptable.
What's the solution? Three things: better products, better explanations of them and better service. The reason why so many people complain about their bank – or, indeed, other financial firm – is because they are sold an account or insurance or loan or whatever that proves to be not what they expected.
So the interest paid is less, or the charges higher, or the terms and conditions or penalties are much more onerous than people are led to believe. So financial products need to be more transparent so that people can understand what they're buying, and more skewed in favour of customers than they are at present.
If people did understand what they were buying, then few would have any reason to complain about the products once they have signed up. Of course it's also incumbent upon all of us to be better informed when making financial choices.
But financial institutions also need to massively improve their customer service. The initial standard response to a customer complaint still seems to be to send a dismissive formulated letter or email of rejection, judging by the evidence we get from readers who have been fobbed off.
Banks, insurers and others must stop simply paying lip service to the idea of customer service and start treating people fairly and with respect.
To encourage them to do so I suggest that all firms should include comparative complaints figures in their adverts, along with the rest of the small print, so that it becomes part of the way we judge them. That would be a powerful inducement to reduce complaints and provide better service than their rivals.
The average household now owes £55,822 while individual debt is at £29,546, according to debt charity Credit Action.
Its October debt statistics also reveal that £175m is the personal interest paid in the UK daily while the annual growth rate in consumer lending has risen to 2.3 per cent, its highest level since May 2009.
While borrowing is essential for most of us, particularly those with a mortgage, spare a thought for those whose debt levels are proving unmanageable. Credit Action says a home is repossessed every 14.6 minutes.
The total number of people who have been out of work for more than a year has climbed to 849,000. With 1,775 people losing their job every day in the three months to the end of July, more hard-up folk will face losing their home in the coming months.
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
- 3 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Isis publicly behead man in Syrian town square for 'insulting Allah' as he screams for help
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...
Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...
£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village