Complaints by bank customers continue to soar: Vivien Goldsmith reports on the growing number of banking grievances and looks at individual cases

COMPLAINTS against banks soared again this year to just over 10,000. The Banking Ombudsman, Laurence Shurman, reported that the 60 per cent increase followed a 62 per cent rise last year.

More than a third (37 per cent) of the complaints handled by the Ombudsman were resolved in the complainant's favour.

Charges and interest headed the list of complaints, but many of these were held to be outside the scope of the Ombudsman. Of the cases investigated, cash machines and cheque guarantee cards topped the list of grievances.

The code of banking practice introduced at the beginning of this year, which limits customers' liability in cases of stolen cash cards to pounds 50, should help to alleviate some of the complaints.

Mr Shurman does not believe in 'phantom' withdrawals from cash machines. 'What we have found is evidence of fraud - usually someone who is known to the complainant. But we have to be alert because fraud has struck from other sources. The way forward has to be to combat fraud.'

He suggested the banks could do more to combat the losses of about pounds 166m last year from plastic card fraud. He would like customers to be able to choose their personal identification number (PIN) so that there would be less need to write it down.

He also proposed the introduction of photographs on cards, videos installed at cash machines, biometric identification which makes a physical check on fingerprints, and the use of the PIN in shop transactions.

Of the 772 completed investigations, compensation was paid ranging from pounds 100 to pounds 10,000.

Mr Shurman was sometimes willing to award compensation for 'real botheration, distress, anxiety or embarrassment'. He said that customers choose a bank because they believe it will deliver an efficient, trouble-free service, and if the bank fails to keep up standards then they should be entitled to fair compensation.

But only in rare cases was he willing to award complainants compensation for their own time spent pursuing a complaint. If a customer had to take time off work to sort out a problem and lost money, then it was reasonable to expect compensation. But time spent at home writing letters would rarely be counted when a compensation payment was made. When customers' own time was valued it was costed at between pounds 5 and pounds 10 an hour.

General interest rate policies were a matter for individual banks, so these complaints were not pursued by the Ombudsman. As long as the bank levied charges in line with its printed tariff there was little scope for a complaint.

But Mr Shurman said there was 'a certain lack of logic' in some bank actions - for instance dishonouring a small item of, say, pounds 20, because of insufficient funds, and then charging the customer pounds 25 for the privilege. 'Computerised fee-billing which gives rise to situations of this type understandably does not endear banks to their customers,' he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are currently looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Media & Advertising Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national business publishi...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones