Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has been voted the least trusted financial services company in the UK, followed by Vanquis and the Co-operative Bank.
The firms were named and shamed in the annual Moneywise Customer Services Awards 2018, which was based on the results of a survey completed by around 40,000 people between December 2017 and March this year.
Royal Bank of Scotland – referring to the individual bank as opposed to the wider RBS Group, which includes NatWest – takes the dubious accolade for the fifth year and has received it six times in total over the past seven years.
Nearly two-thirds of the bank (62.4%) is part-owned by the Treasury, which sold a 7.7% share in the RBS Group in June.
This came just a few days after the bank launched a new £100 switching bonus for new customers opening current accounts, but existing customers have little to smile about.
In May, Ross McEwan, the bank’s chief executive, appeared for questioning in front of the Scottish Affairs Committee, to justify the closure of 52 branches in Scotland.
Meanwhile in February, the bank admitted in its annual results that it had been forced to set aside a further £175 million for PPI claims, bringing the total cost of the scandal for the bank to £5.1 billion.
Proving customers have long memories, respondents in our survey raised concerns about the financial crash and RBS’s subsequent bail-out, its treatment of small businesses, as well as its mis-selling of PPI.
“RBS should have been allowed to fold rather than being bailed out by the taxpayer. Despite its promises and the significant amount of taxpayers’ money that has kept RBS going, it is closing branches in much of rural Scotland,” says one angry reader. Other comments were not publishable.
In addition to what one respondent describes as its “corporate recklessness”, readers also criticise the bank’s customer service.
“My corporate credit card is with RBS. The customer service is appalling. At one point, there was a fraudulent transaction and it took a week of constant calling just to get through to customer service. I dread having to speak to it,” says one reader.
Another says: “I had multiple complaints open with RBS when I changed banks as nobody seemed to care about my issues or want to help at all.”
Moneywise asked RBS for a response but it failed to provide one.
Vanquis, which provides credit cards to borrowers who have been turned down by other banks, is the second least trusted firm.
Readers complained about possible mis-selling, “extortionate” rates, hidden fees and high levels of junk mail and spamming, describing the provider as “nasty” and ‘rip-off merchants’. One reader explains how they had felt “bullied” into signing up for a card in a shopping centre without being given adequate information.
“Vanquis seems to be fairly predatory,” says one reader. “It is supposed to help people with debt up their credit score but all it does is give you more and more credit that you cannot afford then charge you if your struggling,” adds another.
Next in the firing line was the Co-operative Bank, showing once again that mud sticks. Although the bank has made a name for being an ethical firm, it has not been immune to scandal: in this case, sex and drugs. In 2018, regulator the Financial Conduct Authority banned the bank’s former chairman, Paul Flowers, from ever working in financial services again. In 2013, he was forced to resign from his position at the Co-op because of allegations he had purchased and used illegal drugs. The former Methodist minister was also accused of claiming inappropriate expenses – including using his work phone for calling premium rate chat lines.
Readers commented on the Co-op’s “bad management”, “recent scandals”, “reputation” and poor service. One reader says she could not trust the bank after “the service it gave me after dealing with my late husband’s estate,” another expressed disappointment at the withdrawal of charity credit cards. “I expect higher standards – I used to see [the Co-op] as ethical choice. Not any more – I feel let down.”
Barclays and Bank of Scotland come in at positions four and five.
Although banks feature prominently in our least trusted companies list, readers also expressed a lot of dissatisfaction about insurance companies. In particular, readers commented on firms attracting customers with low rates in the first year and increasing them in the second – even if a claim had not been made. They also expressed frustration that to get the best rates you need to phone up and haggle.
A reader says: “We used Admiral for many years for our car insurance. Every year we had to wrangle to get a rate that was at least the same or marginally higher than the previous year – this is beyond annoying. As an existing customer, we expect loyalty and for that to be reflected in the premiums we are charged. We switched to Aviva last year and guess what, we are at renewal this month and we are having a similar experience.”