Mortgages spark most complaints

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The Independent Online
THE focus of complaints about building societies shifted from savings to mortgages - they rose 11.4 per cent last year while those about savings dropped 15.5 per cent.

The fall in investment- related cases was mainly due to a drop in complaints from savers marooned in uncompetitive closed accounts.

The smallest award was for pounds 5.31, which involved paying the difference between the interest rate on a defunct account and the rate on a running account.

The largest award was for pounds 43,000. A society had failed to pass on the insurer's request for a medical report when it was arranging life cover for a couple buying a house. The husband became ill and uninsurable and died. The society was ordered to pay pounds 43,000 minus the premiums which should have been paid. The widow also received interest on the award and pounds 500 for inconvenience.

Another case involved a City solicitor wrongly linked with a suspected fraudster after a direct debit was misposted. He was arrested and held for four hours. The report said: 'He suffered acute personal embarrassment . . . and had to spend two hours on the telephone contacting clients and others assuring them that his arrest had been a mistake.'

The society was ordered to pay pounds 5,000 compensation and pounds 500 in expenses.

The Building Societies ombudsman, Stephen Edell, who has been appointed as ombudsman for the new Personal Investment Authority, said he would not interfere with the terms of a mortgage if they were made clear at a time when the customer could still go elsewhere.

He supported a complaint from a couple of borrowers who had a London occasional residence with a normal domestic mortgage. Four years later a new manager said that the account should be designated as commercial and the interest rate raised by 2 per cent. If the borrowers did not agree to the change the loan would be called in.

Although the society had the right to call in the loan, this was done for inappropriate reasons and was unfair, said the ombudsman. The borrowers were awarded the cost of their valuation and legal fees incurred in moving to another lender.

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