Customers complain to banks every 10 seconds

Chancellor George Osborne has announced attempts to manipulate any one of seven London pricing benchmarks will become a criminal offence

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The Independent Online

Banks have racked up a complaint every 10 seconds since the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, according to shocking figures to be released by the Robin Hood Tax Campaign today.

The Campaign, which lobbies for the imposition of a financial transaction tax on banks to fight poverty, used an analysis of an official data to calculate the figure.

Its release comes just a day after the Chancellor George Osborne announced attempts to manipulate any one of seven London pricing benchmarks would become a criminal offence. The seven will also be subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority for the first time.

In addition to foreign exchange rates, the seven benchmarks include the daily gold and silver price fixing mechanisms as well as Brent crude oil prices. Most of the benchmarks have either been found subject to manipulation or are suspected of having been manipulated. The new regime is an extension of legislation put in place to cover the Libor interest rates.

The foreign exchange rigging scandal saw the banking industry’s reputation plumbing new depths, something the Robin Hood Campaign’s figures will only exacerbate.

The data it has collated shows UK banks and building societies received a total of 19.7 million complaints, equivalent to almost 9,000 a day since the middle of 2008.

While they have eased from a peak of 2.6 million in the second half of 2012 as the volume of complaints related to the payment protection insurance misspelling scandal levelled off, they are still  running at the rate of a of a million every month.  David Hillman, spokesman for the Robin Hood Tax campaign, said bad behaviour by the industry was still commonplace: “Far from banks clearing up their act after causing the crisis, they’ve continued to treat the public they should be serving with contempt.”

He said that employees as well as customers have suffered, with front-line staff bearing the brunt of bosses’ “reckless business model that led to a financial crisis and five scandal-ridden years since”.

Mr Hillman added: “If the last five years show anything it’s that slapped wrists and fines are not enough to change the way banks treat society. A Robin Hood Tax would make banks start working for Britain. For too long it’s been the other way round.”

A spokesperson for the Financial Conduct Authority, which has made improving complaints handling a priority, said: “It’s important that firms are on top of the issues that are driving complaints. We have seen a five per cent fall in complaints about financial services in the first six months of 2014, but firms must continue to work hard to address the issues that cause concern amongst their consumers so collectively we can start to rebuild trust in the industry as a whole.”

However, the British Bankers Association said the industry was committed to ending “bad practice”. A spokesperson said: “While it is encouraging the number of complaints about banks to the Financial Ombudsman Service has begun to fall, there are clearly still far too many. All banks have hired more staff to deal with the increased numbers of complaints. Furthermore, all of the UK’s high street banks have committed publicly to ensuring a decisive end to any bad practices that encouraged mis-selling.” They added: “Banks have also overhauled the way frontline staff are paid, rewarding high levels of customer service, not sales volumes.Banks will continue to work with the Ombudsman and regulators to make sure they deliver the service we all expect and deserve.”

On pricing benchmarks, Chancellor George Osborne said: “The integrity of the City matters to the economy of Britain. Ensuring the key rates that underpin financial markets here and around the world are robust, and anyone who seeks to manipulate them is subject to the full force of the law, is an important part of our long term economic plan.”