Simon Read: It's not just the banks that face issues of trust
Companies are causing people to lose trust by cold calling them
Barclays was this week branded a "rotten, thieving bank" by Labour MP John Mann. He threw the phrase at the bank's ex-boss Bob Diamond during his grilling by the Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday. The American had another view, of course. He claimed that Barclays is "an incredible institution".
Incredible is a good word to describe the revelations of recent days which have left customers of the bank reeling. Has their trust ever reached a lower point?
Coming so quickly after the computer cock-ups at Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest that left millions unable to access their cash, it's easy to believe that it's time for the old order of high street names to be brushed away and replaced with institutions that we can trust.
I suspect that that's especially true for customers of RBS-owned Ulster Bank, who are still waiting to have their banking services restored. This week they were told to expect a return to normal service by the week starting 16 July. That'll be around a month after the trouble started, which is shockingly poor service.
At the heart of all this is trust. We need to trust our banks as we hand over our hard-earned to them. But it's not just a case of trusting them with our savings, we also need to trust that they'll treat us fairly by giving us decent interest on our money, or by not overcharging us for services.
In the past few years the banks have betrayed our trust again and again. They flogged us useless and expensive payment protection insurance, for instance. The ramifications of that scandal are still resonating.
On Thursday the Financial Services Compensation Scheme reported it paid out £347m in compensation to 86,000 claimants in the past year. The relevance? Some 84 per cent of new claims related to mis-sold payment protection insurance.
But this growing lack of trust among consumers isn't confined to banks. Figures released this week by the Financial Ombudsman Service revealed that complaints about payday loan firms shot up by a third in the past three months.
And the complaints appeared to be largely justified, with more than three quarters of them upheld. My postbag reflects a growing unhappiness with the actions of some payday lenders. The worst add extra charges or fees, hitting vulnerable people who may have trusted the lender to help them.
Regular readers of the section will know of the complete breakdown in trust that many have with the nation's energy firms. Rising prices have forced millions into fuel poverty while the Big Six energy companies continue to rake in hundreds of millions in profits.
Companies outside the financial sector are causing people to lose trust by continually annoying them by cold calling them at home. The Information Commissioner's Office revealed this week that complaints about cold calling soared more than 40 per cent last year.
The problem is worsened by the fact that some of the telemarketing firms used by companies have been ignoring the Telephone Preference Service. In theory by signing up to the service, as I have, the cold calling should stop.
In practice it continues. It's so annoying that I now make a note of any company that calls me at home trying to flog me something and add it to a growing list of companies to avoid.
The same is true of companies that announce sales or special discounts that are no such thing. I was in the market for some holiday money this week and noticed that one online site was holding a "flash sale" the following day so decided to delay my purchase.
But when I logged into the site the next day, the rate offered was worse than the day before. Exchange rates do go up and down, but you'd have thought that the special "flash sale" would have produced a better deal, not worse. Especially as the rival sites I checked still offered the same rate as the previous day, not a worse one.
It's another example of trust being eroded. When a company tells you something is half price, you assume that it was previously sold for twice as much. But often a little research reveals that the so-called bargain has actually been sold at the lower price for months or even years and may even be cheaper at another retailer.
In short, you can't trust a company's marketing. You can only trust your own research. And one good thing about the internet is that it's easy to research and shop around these days. That's also true of airlines and other organisations that add hidden charges to your bill. The budget airlines have been forced to stop the practice by the Office of Fair Trading, but debit and credit-card charge surcharges need to be outlawed.
We can only trust companies that are transparent and quote a price that covers everything. It's the only way to easily compare charges.
I've also become fed up with the charity muggers, chuggers, that accost me on the high street near the Independent's office on an almost daily basis.
Some are rude and hectoring, but all are annoying. I've taken to adding the charities that use them to my growing black list of firms and organisations to avoid.
How can I trust them to use donations wisely when they splash out our money on dreadful chuggers? I have raised the issue with charities and they say the street collectors are one of the best money-raising activities.
But if we collectively agreed to ignore them, then their annoying activities would stop. By the same token if all Barclays' customers withdrew their money and switched to a rival, then the bank would no longer be able to attempt to rig interest rates.
People power is growing. You just need to look at the growing shareholder protests at company AGMs to see how the rising tide of discontent can be turned into something positive.
The immediacy of social media, too, has helped give ordinary folk the power to force companies to treat them more fairly. The more we gather together and use that power, the better. Then, and only then, will we be able to start rebuilding our trust in the firms we use.
Is 31 May really the day when we have paid all of our tax for the year?
Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 Enrique Iglesias injured trying to catch a drone mid concert
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, reveals new look on Annie Leibovitz shot Vanity Fair cover
- 4 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...
£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...
£25 - £30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a highly-motivated and ambitious Comm...
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool