Santander comes top for customer complaints
Bank wins unwanted title
Santander has gained a title it would prefer not to have. It is the worst in the UK in terms of customer complaints.
The bank is spending big money on a television and media campaign offering people £100 as an incentive to move their current accounts. They offer other perks, such as a high interest on balances for the first 12 months.
You may have noticed that the ads don’t talk about how wonderfully they treat their customers, and there may be good justification for that.
The Financial Services Authority has been compiling data on bank customer complaints since 2006 but this year for the first time, it ordered the banks to post information regarding the first half of the year on their websites by August 31. The results make fascinating reading.
Spanish-owned Santander, which includes the former Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford and Bingley received 216,158 complaints in the first six months of 2010, making it the bank with the highest ratio of complaints to the number of customer accounts. It said integration of its business units had led to the high numbers.
Barclays had the next largest number of complaints with 195,956.
Lloyds Banking Group had a lower ratio because of its larger customer base, but it received the highest number of complaints overall. It also has the dubious honour of being the bank that dismisses the highest number of complaints. Nine out of ten are thrown out.
Some banks were more likely to decide in favour of the customer. Barclays upheld a third of all complaints, while Bank of Scotland upheld 7 per cent.
HSBC had a relatively low number of complaints at 65,236 and the Co-operative Bank, the relatively small bank that offers customers an ethical banking service, had the lowest ratio of complaints with just 2.1 for every 1,000 accounts.
This equates in total between the big six banks 1.4 million complaints in just six months — equivalent to more than 11,000 a day.
Banks were required to break down complaints into five areas: banking, mortgages, insurance, pensions and investments.
Complaints about banking services made up the vast majority of consumer grievances. They ranged from minor issues such as chequebooks not arriving and long queues in branches, to more complex problems such as international payments not arriving on time and credit cards being refused abroad.
The figures could have been even worse, but banks threw out a large number of complaints about unauthorised overdraft charges after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the banks last year, resulting in a jump in the number of complaints closed.
The FSA decided to force the banks to come clean over complaints after an inquiry in April this year found “glaring problems that need to be addressed”.
It seems consumers are getting more used to complaining, which is a trend being driven by the use of social media sites and the internet. Online services are making it faster for people to access the correct path to a complaint. Now that the complaints figures are being made public, this process is likely to escalate even faster as people realize they are not alone in their anger.