Britain’s biggest High Street banks have been swamped by a staggering 11,000 complaints a day from angry customers.

Bank Complaints

The sheer scale of the shabby customer service doled out by the ‘big six’ banks was laid bare for the first time yesterday when they were forced to publish the number of disputes they had received in the first six months of the year.

Damning figures reveal as many as nine in every ten complaints about banking were rejected without so much as an apology.

Yet when half of these problems reach independent investigators, they are upheld. The complaints data shows:

  • The big six banks were deluged with 1.4 million complaints in just six months — equivalent to more than 11,000 a day. State-backed Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group receive 3,600 complaints a day between them.
  • Britain’s biggest bank, Lloyds TSB, rejected an astonishing nine in ten banking problems.
  • A quarter of a million customers with Spanish-owned Santander were stuck in a backlog of disputes about overdraft charges.

Marc Gander, from the campaigning Consumer Action Group, says: ‘We’re used to banks treating their customers shabbily. Now we have banks like Lloyds treating thei r owners shabbily.

It’s quite extraordinary. You have to wonder where these billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are being spent – it’s certainly not on complaints handling.’ Predictably, the lion’s share of complaints were lodged against the ‘big six’ banks.

These are state-backed Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland/ NatWest, Santander, Barclays, HSBC and Nationwide – the UK’s largest building society.

According to analysis by Money Mail, they received 1,389,884 new complaints between them in the first six months of the year and closed an astonishing 2,334,029.

This includes a huge queue of complaints about overdraft charges. Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest, which is 84 pc owned by the taxpayer, was the last to publish its data yesterday afternoon.

It received 166,172 complaints – or 1,329 per working day. Meanwhile, Lloyds Banking Group – 42 pc taxpayer owned – got 2,310 complaints from angry customers every day, a total of 288,717. Barclays was flooded with 259,266, and rejected two-thirds of the 366,527 banking problems it resolved.

One of the worst culprits has been Santander, which bought Abbey in 2004 and has eight million customers. Money Mail has consistently highlighted the shoddy customer service meted out by the bank and the shambolic way it has dealt with Isa transfers. It received 245,000 complaints.

Dominic Lindley, from consumer group Which?, says: ‘This is hardly surprising. Santander has consistently languished at the bottom of our customer satisfaction surveys – and the way disputes are handled is crucial to the way customers view their bank.’

Steve Williams, director of service quality and complaints at Santander, says: ‘We need to do more. Improving customer service remains a priority.’

The figures also reveal how thousands of people are simply being fobbed off by the banks. Many customers are forced to turn to independent disputes arbitrator the Financial Ombudsman Service.

It upholds more than five in ten cases, meaning countless legitimate complaints are being rejected. Many complaints never even get to the Ombudsman, with customers giving up once their complaint has been rejected by their bank.

Oliver Morgans, financial specialist at Consumer Focus , says : ‘Complaints should be clearly broken down by individual brand and product, alongside details of how long it takes for complaints to be dealt with.

‘This will help consumers compare the customer service offered by banks before they decide where to put their hard-earned money.’

Fobbed off by Santander for three monthsPenny Norman, 36, and her husband Mark  have been exasperated by the service she has received from Santander.

They were fobbed off with excuses for three months when she tried to move her Isa from Santander to Yorkshire BS. Penny, from Ipswich, says: ‘I have moved all my savings from Santander because of the awful service. I shouldn’t have to be the one that sorts problems out. I was going round in circles, with nothing getting sorted.’

They applied to transfer their cash Isas from Santander to Yorkshire on March 20. They eventually got their money in May. Penny adds: ‘I called into my local Santander branch several times, to be promised they would get back to me. I contacted head office twice, only to be told the money was being transferred and wrote to head office, but nothing was resolved.’

A Santander spokesman says: ‘We’re sorry. We will ensure all interest is backdated so there is no financial loss.

 

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Tim Capper

Bringing you financial news and information in plain english for Maple Leaf Financial. My aim is to help readers understand these often complex financial instruments.