And the most complained about bank is...

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There are some hotly-contested titles around, but there's one which the banks seem to spend all their time pushing hard for an opportunity to win - that of becoming The Most Complained-About Bank.

The Financial Conduct Authority has revealed the banks which have pushed the envelope in the customer service world and taken the meaning of 'service' to a new low. But which bank took the title?
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Most complaints

The FCA has published details of the banks which received the most complaints in the first half of 2013. And the winner this year was Barclays.

The bank faced an incredible 370,733 complaints in this time. Nine out of ten of them were dealt with within eight weeks, and a shocking 62% of these found against the bank.

In second place - quite some distance behind the leader - was Lloyds TSB, which saw 253,753 complaints - 62% of these were found in favour of the customer.

MBNA was next with 237,103 complaints - 36% of which went against the organisation. Bank of Scotland faced 222,249 complaints - 45% of which went against them. Santander saw 198,736 complaints - of which 43% went against the firm. Special mention must go to Santander which managed to deal with just 83% of all complaints within eight weeks - the length of time they are supposed to deal with all complaints.

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PPI

The FCA drew attention to the fact that the PPI scandal was passing, and that fewer new PPI complaints were now being opened. Some 1,786,626 complaints about PPI were opened, but this is a drop in the ocean compared to previous years.

This fact led to a fall in the total number of complaints across the board - with Bank of Scotland in particular noting a 34% drop in the number of complaints compared to the second half of 2012. The only area which saw a rise in the number of complaints was personal pensions.

However, the problems we face with banks are not limited to a single mis-selling scandal. The FCA found that after PPI the most complained-about product was insurance (11% of all complaints), followed by current accounts (10%), credit cards (6%) and savings (3%).

The scale of the issue can be seen by the fact that firms paid out a total of £2.55 billion in redress to customers over this period. The vast majority of this was for insurance (including PPI). However, they were still forced to pay out £54 million for investment products, and £52 million for banking products.

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And the most complained about bank is...

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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