Simon Read: It's been a year to forget for banks, but we shouldn't forget – or forgive
Claims chasing companies are confident they've found a new mis-selling scandal to bash the banks with. This time it's expensive packaged accounts that include often dubious insurances.
Last week the Financial Services Authority published new guidelines designed to clean up poor sales practices of the accounts.
The new rules mean that next year, more than 10 million people with paid-for current accounts will be sent a letter informing them whether or not they can actually use the benefits included.
This week Lloyds TSB and Bank of Scotland – the banking group which has most of the expensive current accounts – said it will suspend telephone and branch sales of packaged bank accounts next year.
Are the claims chasers right? If so, it will be just another black mark against the high street banks in 2012, in what has proved to be their worst year yet, in terms of reputation and treating customers unfairly.
The ethical website Blue & Green Tomorrow has – in conjunction with the campaigning group Move Your Money – rounded up just why the big banks have been bad this year.
It's a useful reminder, and should send a stark warning down Britain's banking halls that they must do better in 2013, or risk losing all of us as customers.
For instance, the site reports that it's been a bad year to be a Barclays' customer. Not only was the bank at the centre of the Libor rate-rigging scandal, for which it was fined £276m, but it also experienced a shareholder revolt at its AGM in April over boardroom pay, where 26.9 per cent rejected Barclays' executive remuneration package.
HSBC's poor 2012 centred on accusations of money-laundering. After an investigation by the US Senate, the bank was forced to pay £1.2bn in penalties for channelling money for Mexican drug barons and Iranian criminals – at the time the largest fine ever given to a bank.
Meanwhile Lloyds Banking Group, which owns Lloyds TSB, Halifax and the Bank of Scotland, revealed a half-year loss of £439m in July after being forced to increase the amount it had set aside to compensate customers mis-sold payment protection insurance by £700m to £4.27bn overall.
Royal Bank of Scotland is set to be slapped with the biggest Libor fine of all the UK high-street banks to date at £350m. It also received continued criticism during 2012 for its funding of energy-intensive Canadian tar sands operations. That's on top of a £1.5bn half-year loss and a PPI compensation pot so far totalling £1.7bn.
And what about NatWest? The bank's annus horribilis is dominated by its shocking IT meltdown over the summer, when up to 12 million people were unable to pay bills or withdraw money. The City watchdog later ruled that the bank had to refund and compensate affected customers.
Move Your Money claims that in 2012 more than half a million people in the UK have made the switch from high street banks to dedicated ethical alternatives.
Will that race for change accelerate next year? It really wouldn't surprise me. So what are the alternatives that people are choosing? We've written about most of them this year, but here's a reminder, courtesy of Blue & Green again.
There's Triodos Bank, which last year reported a 36 per cent growth in green lending and saw a 51 per cent increase in new account applications at the height of the Barclays scandal which saw so-called casino banker Bob Diamond lose his job.
Then there's Charity Bank, which uses your cash to lend to good causes. Since being launched a decade ago, it has issued 1,006 loans, worth £165m. Its loans are estimated to have improved the lives of some 3.5 million people across the UK.
Co-operative Bank, the closest thing to a high street bank that the alternative banking sector has, was named European sustainable bank of the year. It is set to take on an extra 4.8 million customers when it completes the takeover of 600 branches from Lloyds next year.
And then there's the Ecology Building Society, Reliance Bank – which was formerly the Salvation Army's bank – and Unity Trust Bank.
In short, you don't have to take the same old bad service and excuses from the traditional banks. If you're already thinking about possible new year's resolutions, switching to a more sustainable bank may not be a bad one to adopt.
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
- 4 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 5 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
iJobs Money & Business
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
Day In a Page
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
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar