HBOS humbled on debt bullying claim

HBOSA stressed-out restaurant worker who fell behind on her £7,300 loan repayments to HBOS has had her claim for harassment from the 40% taxpayer-owned bank upheld.

In a seven month period HBOS made an astonishing 500 nuisance calls to 48-year-old Roberts - even calling her elderly parents about the loan. Roberts has been awarded £7,500 damages. A victory for consumers? %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%


Certainly. The Court of Appeal ruled the calls from the 40% taxpayer-owned bank through its call centres to Roberts - from 8am to late in the evening - amounted to harassment, or "intimidatory bullying". However this judgement has cost Roberts more than £10,000 in legal costs.

"The bank were completely dismissive and rude," said Roberts, quoted in the Mirror. "I kept asking them to stop ringing me as I was ­already talking to my local branch." Originally Roberts took HBOS to task through a county court. But HBOS counter-claimed for outstanding monies for overdraft costs, though the Court of Appeal struck HBOS down.

"We are confident that our policies and procedures have long since been updated," a humbled HBOS said in response. "While the court clearly emphasised that creditors should make every effort to make contact with debtors before commencing legal proceedings, we agree that a constructive dialogue is the best course of action."

Protection money

Customers who make it clear to their bank that they cannot pay their debts have protection from The Lending Code, which means that the bank has to act sympathetically and positively to the situation. (They also have protection from often well-informed county courts, as in Roberts' case.)

Part of the problem for some consumers is that some banks debts are off loaded to debt collection agencies, who can use automated texts to pile on the pressure on consumers. Highly aggressive, in some cases. If this happens, you're advised to keep a record of how many times they contact you, and keep hold of the evidence.

However, if your bank continues to ignore your complaints - and HBOS ignored Roberts' own pleas to stop the nuisance 'phone calls - you also do have the option of complaining to the Financial Ombudsman. It's a free service, offering arbitration.

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HBOS humbled on debt bullying claim

More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.

The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!

(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)

Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.

Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.

While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.

You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.

Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.

A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!

While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.

Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.

If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.

The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.

Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.

In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.

"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."

The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.

When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.

When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.

Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!

The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.

About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.


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