James Moore: Next time, get rid of these pestilent middlemen

Barclays said that half the complaints came from people with whom it had no relationship

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The Independent Online

Outlook Can the banking industry's public image get any worse? To add fuel to the Libor fire is the news of a huge rise in the complaints levied by ordinary consumers.

According to data published by the Financial Services Authority yesterday, banks have been swamped with 3.6 million in just six months, a rise of 60 per cent. That amounts to 20,000 people expressing dissatisfaction daily.

The explosion in numbers is almost entirely down to payment protection insurance mis-selling. And a significant minority of PPI complaints will be found to be entirely invalid.

That is because an awful lot of them arrive under the auspices of the claims management "industry", a business which has achieved something that had seemed almost impossible: it's making the banks look almost like responsible corporate citizens.

Email accounts, mobile phones, letterboxes, almost any method of contacting potential customers (marks) are being bombarded by people with ethics straight out of the sewer. "Our records show you are owed £2,700," and so on. Text STOP if you don't wish to receive further communications. And then we'll consider that you mean don't (stop) and send you two texts a day.

You almost wonder if some of those people who were winning mis-seller of the month prizes from banks and insurers moved into claims management when the regulators turned up the heat.

Barclays once complained that literally half the PPI complaints it was receiving came from people with whom it had no relationship. Nearly all of them were forwarded by claims management conmen.

Don't feel too much sympathy for the banks, though. They fought tooth and nail to wriggle out of doing anything about PPI, taking it all the way to the High Court. Where they lost.

Then the FSA had to force them to conduct a review of past business back in May. Claims managers simply filled the vacuum that existed before that.

It is banks' grubby conduct that has facilitated the activities of a grubby group of people.

If this sort of thing happens again (and it will), it would be better for all concerned if these pestilent and unnecessary middlemen were removed from the process. When the dust has settled, the new Financial Conduct Authority and the banking industry might like to sit down together to address the issue.

An attempt to show willing on this front by the banks might show that they have finally started to grow up a bit.