Consumers have their say on banking

Last night consumers had the opportunity to say what they really think about the banking industry directly to members of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, at an event organised by Which?.

Members of the public came face to face with a panel of members from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards tasked with looking at issues arising from the consumer and SME experience of banks. The panel asked them questions including how they are treated by their bank, the information they receive about products and services, their experience of sales practices and making a complaint to their bank, and what changes they think should be made to banking in this country.

Consumers at the event said:

  • No to charging for a current account: Many were unhappy about unfair bank charges, and some were shocked that they are already paying for their accounts through lost interest or high overdraft charges. They felt that they shouldn’t have to pay for the most basic, essential banking services and a monthly charge would not stop high charges or mis-selling.
  • Stop selling us products we don’t need: This was a major issue for a lot of the consumers present, with many saying they are hassled to buy products when they go into their local branch when all they want is basic information about their account.
  • Show us some loyalty: They were keen to see their loyalty – in many cases for decades of banking with the same company – rewarded in some way, and some were disappointed that their banks had failed to show any understanding when they were in financial difficulty, despite their loyalty.
  • End faceless banking: Many were fed up with the lack of a personal service and bank staff who know nothing about their personal circumstances. They felt that bank staff are only interested in selling them products, and reading from a script, rather than properly speaking to them about their banking needs.
  • Bankers must be held accountable: Most questioned why no bankers had been prosecuted for corrupt practices uncovered during the financial collapse.
  • Tougher rules are needed: Many consumers were not aware of existing regulation, and wanted to see tougher rules and a visible code of conduct for the industry. They did not think it was right that people had to complain about mis-selling, or fight to get compensation, and the banks should automatically have to resolve all complaints.

Consumers also voiced some positive comments about banking, with examples of helpful advice from some individual bank staff, useful fraud alerts and a recognition that branch staff can be put under a lot of pressure to sell rather than serve customers.  

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:

“It is important that the Commission hear directly from the public about how they have lost trust and confidence in the banking sector and have just had enough of being short changed by banks.

“We are campaigning for Big Change in banking, to put customers first, not bankers. Consumers’ best interests must be at the heart of reforms to the financial sector to prevent the public suffering from further mis-selling and scandals. “

Which? has launched a major new campaign ‘Big Change’ to make the banks work for customers, not bankers. The public can support the campaign by signing the ‘Big Change’ pledge.

‘Big Change’ is calling for:

  • Bankers to put customers first, not sales.
  • Bankers to meet professional standards and comply with a code of conduct.
  • Bankers to be punished for mis-selling and bad practice.

Notes to editors:

  1. Which? hosted an event in Birmingham on Monday 24 September for approximately 50 consumers to voice their views about banking to the panel of members who are looking at SME/retail customers for the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.
  2. Members of the SME/retail panel at the event were Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP, Mark Garnier MP, Andrew Love MP, Rt Hon Lord McFall of Alcuith and John Thurso MP.  The panel is engaged in an initial information gathering exercise on behalf of the full commission. For more information about the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards or the panel on SME and retail customers please contact James Abbott 020 7219 2003 or abbottj@parliament.uk.
  3. Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith will be giving oral evidence to the panel in Parliament on Wednesday 26 September at 2pm.
  4. The consumer views outlined above are a summary of comments given at the event and are not representative of the population.

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