THE angry response of one small business owner sums up the sense of betrayal: "You feel like you are working with the bank, you are in a relationship." This sense of a partnership changed, she implies, when her business fell foul of an interest rate swap agreement (IRSA).
Mis-selling of these complex products is just one of the offences, ranging from sharp practice all the way to criminal behaviour, which have damaged that perception of banks as being on the side of their customers.
Now, as The Herald reveals today, it seems customers who complain about IRSA products, or query the impact of the Libor scandal on their mortgages, could be inadvertently undermining their chances of making a successful claim with the Financial Ombudsman Service. By making an initial query or simply venting their anger in a phone call, they may set a clock ticking which means that in six months they can no longer bring a case to the ombudsman.
This may not be deliberate, but looks like another sign that the banks simply don't "get" public anger at their lack of social accountability. Belated gestures such as Lloyds Banking Group's offer yesterday to pay £8m to a fund to help victims of the Farepak scandal – all the while insisting that it didn't have to – really don't do much to help.
Customers certainly should make it clear that requests for information must not be treated as complaints.
But is it too much to ask that a bank responds within the spirit, not just the letter of the rules – and writes to inform customers that a complaint has been logged (without charging a fee)? Then once, just once, its customers might feel the bank was putting their interests before its own.
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