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?


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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