Tuesday 21 October 2014

It's not too much to ask that lenders treat customers well

Published 26/02/2014 | 02:30

IT has taken years, but at long last we have a league table of the worst offenders when it comes to consumer complaints about financial matters. And surprise, surprise, our banks are among the league leaders.

It is scandalous that two taxpayer bailed-out banks – AIB and Permanent TSB – are so high up the list.

Taxpayers reluctantly stumped up a combined €25bn to rescue the two broken banks. And our reward?

AIB emerges as the second most complained about financial institution in the last three months of last year, followed by Permanent TSB.

Would it have been too much to expect for these banks to behave themselves when customers make complaints?

After all, the customers saved them, and are paying more in charges and fees and interest, while depositors are getting little or nothing for their deposits.

A change in the law gave financial services ombudsman Bill Prasifka the power to name and shame the bad boys of banking and other financial services since September.

The onset of that new shaming power promoted a surge in attempts by finance firms to settle claims to avoid bad publicity.

Despite that, some 165 complaint cases ended up being lost by 15 different providers.

But worryingly, large numbers of complaints taken by consumers result in victory for the finance firm.

Some 77pc of complaints by consumers were not upheld in the second half of last year.

This is a shocking statistic given the sheer scale of the financial collapse. And it seems unfair.

Banks and other financial providers have lawyers and other experts in-house.

They also have experience in dealing with complaints. All of this gives them in-built advantages.

Mr Prasifka should give these consumer disadvantages more weight when determining cases.

At least some pro-consumer progress is being made with the naming of institutions generating a lot of complaints.

It is to be hoped now that regular updating of the new financial league of shame will force better behaviour.

Irish Independent

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