How to complain to your bank

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29 February 2012
News,Money,Current Accounts

Independent arbitration service The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), published its latest complaints data on Tuesday, February 28, which counts the number and type of consumer gripes about individual financial businesses - including banks, insurance companies and investment firms - over a six-month period.

A total of 72,720 complaints were referred to the FOS in the second half of 2011, down from 118,413 in the previous six months. However, the fall is largely due to recent measures put in place by regulator, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which gives banks longer to deal with complaints relating to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) - something that had made up a significant proportion of all complaints.

The fact remains then, there are still a lot of unhappy customers out there.  If you are among them, don't suffer in silence. Instead get to grips with procedures of how to complain to your bank - and if you are still not happy, vote with your feet and go elsewhere. So, where do you start?

Talk to your bank

It may be that your first instinct is to go straight to the FOS with your complaint, but before it will act, you must first contact your bank and give it a chance to resolve the issue.

The first port of call is to find details of the company's complaints procedure - which you can do on its website or by calling its customer service department.

Be clear on the exact nature of your complaint and the action you would like taken to resolve it. Pull together any paperwork that relates to your grievance, such as bank statements, letter or emails, and make a note of any key points and important information, including account numbers and key dates.

You should then contact your bank and lodge your complaint. If you are doing this over the phone, be sure to keep calm and stick to the point as any deviation may make it easier for the person on the other end to fob you off and not properly resolve your issue.

If the issue cannot be solved over the phone you should follow it up with an email or a letter, making sure that any correspondence is clearly marked 'complaint'. If you need to include any documents to support your complaint only send copies and never the original documents.

It is also important to keep a record of every stage of your complaint, making a note of when you called, who you spoke to and the response you were given.

Whether you are trying to resolve the matter over the phone or in writing, always try to state how you would like the matter to be resolved. For instance, do you want some sort of financial recompense or will a simple apology do?

It's important to be realistic in what you would accept to resolve the matter as simply thinking of a number and asking for this sum in compensation could make your claim seem less credible.

Once you have lodged your complaint with the bank, it then has eight weeks in which to respond. If, after this time, it has not responded or you are not happy with its response, then it's time to contact the FOS.

Talk to the Financial Ombudsman Service

The FOS is an independent third party that deals with complaints about banks, building societies, credit card companies, financial advisors, fund managers, mortgage companies and pension providers (but not company pensions).

It offers its services for free to consumers but each company must pay £500 for every complaint made against it, regardless of the outcome, so it is in the banks' best interests to resolve the matter internally.

However, the banks are not always able to resolve all complaints and they are often then passed over to the FOS.

When you contact the FOS, you should provide all of the details that relate to your case including times, dates and names of people you spoke to and the responses you were given and it will then make an initial assessment on whether you have grounds for complaint.

If the complaint is accepted and the FOS takes on your case, it can take anywhere between six and nine months to reach a final ruling. This ruling is binding on the provider but not on you as a consumer and if you are still unhappy with the outcome you can appeal to the ombudsman's independent assessor.

However, you should be aware that any further action could result in having to take the matter to court which could prove costly, particularly if the court ruling, which is then final, goes against you.

Vote with your feet

Another tactic you could employ if you are unhappy with your bank is to take your business elsewhere. MoneySupermarket's comparison tool enables you to instantly compare the best bank accounts currently available, giving you a free, independent and whole of market comparison.

If you tend to stay in-credit each month and prefer not to have an overdraft facility then the Halifax Reward Current Account could be for you as you can earn up to £60 a year through its cashback scheme.

Instead of paying interest, Halifax credits customers £5 per month, so long as they make a monthly deposit of £1,000 or more and stay in the black.

Halifax also provides a free switching service to make the transition between banks easier and also offers a three-month, fee-free overdraft for anyone who switches.

However, this is not great for anyone that goes overdrawn as Halifax will charge £1 per day for authorised borrowing up to £2,500 and £2 per day for anything above that.  An unauthorised overdraft fees are an eye-watering £5 per day!

If you prefer the option of an overdraft facility then the Santander Everyday Current Account could be more suitable. This account offers a 0% overdraft for four months for anyone that switches to this account and there is no minimum funding required.
In addition, to make the switch easier, Santander provides a free switching service with a dedicated team that will take control of the switch for you.

Another good option could be The Co-Operative Current Account Plus which offers a an interest and fee free£300 overdraft facility with a £200 fee free buffer. The account also has a linked savings account available but you are required to pay in a minimum of £800 per month.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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Les Roberts



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