Lloyds Bank most complained about business
Lloyds Bank was the most complained about business in the second half of 2014, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FoS). It also said payment protection insurance (PPI) problems made up two thirds (65%) of all complaints received by it between July and December last year.
The FoS took on 161,649 new cases between July and December, with PPI complaints making up 104,877 of the total. The ombudsman said this represented a "levelling-off" in the number of PPI complaints but the nature of them was becoming increasingly "hard-fought and complex".
Complaints about other financial products besides PPI remained at a similar level throughout 2014, with 56,771 in the second half of the year compared to 57,310 for the first six months.
However, banking complaints rose by 8% and investment cases by 4% between the two periods, with the ombudsman finding in the customer's favour in 52% of all cases.
The most complained about business was Lloyds Bank, with 24,245 complaints, though this was down by a quarter (25%) on the first six months of the year, while Barclays was second with 21,078 complaints and Bank of Scotland third (19,706). Lloyds also topped the list in relation to PPI, with 20,145 new complaints, followed by Barclays (15,768) and Bank of Scotland (15,732).
A change in nature
In response to the figures, chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman said: "We have seen a change in the nature of the PPI complaints people are asking us to resolve, which are increasingly hard-fought and complex.
"Outside of PPI, we continue to see many entrenched disputes that could have been avoided. We're also hearing from dissatisfaction from people where their problems started with a simple misunderstanding. On these occasions, problems could often be cleared up much earlier if there had been better communication between the financial business and their customer."
David Mann, head of money at comparison website Uswitch.com, added: "Although PPI mis-selling has been the biggest scandal to hit the banking sector for several years, it's a relief to see these complaints finally levelling off.
"Worryingly, banking complaints are rising. Consumers are increasingly dissatisfied with their banking service and are forced to turn to the ombudsman as a last resort because they just aren't being heard. But despite this rise in complaints, people still aren't voting with their feet with only 1.6 million people switching in the last year."
Payment protection insurance is designed to cover you should you fall ill, have an accident or lose your job and can’t make repayments on loans or credit cards. However, research by consumer watchdogs found the cover to be overpriced, filled with exclusions (policies exclude self-employment, contract employees and pre-existing medical conditions) and were often mis-sold because the exclusions were never fully explained. In May 2011, the High Court ruled banks had knowingly mis-sold PPI and ordered them to compensate around two million consumers.
The practice of a dishonest salesperson misrepresenting or misleading an investor about the characteristics of a product or service. For example, selling a person with no dependants a whole-of-life policy. There have been notable mis-selling scandals in the past, including endowment policies tied to mortgages, employees persuaded to leave final salary pensions in favour of money purchase pensions (which paid large commissions to salespeople) and payment protection insurance. There is no legal definition of mis-selling; rather the Financial Services Authority (FSA) issues clarifying guidelines and hopes companies comply with them.
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.