Complaints about banks soarInterest and penalty charges top complaints

03 May 2006

Fed-up consumers made 3,500 complaints to the banking watchdog last year - 50 per cent more than in 2004.

The figures, just released by the Banking Code Standards Board (BCSB), show that more people complained about interest rates and penalty charges than anything else.

Which? recently launched a campaign to stop banks and building societies charging consumers excessive amounts for an unauthorised overdraft. We issued the big banks with an Asbo - an Anti-Social Banking Order - for their sky-high fees. In 2004, consumers paid GBP 3 billion in charges for going into the red without permission.

'Charges should be fair'

Which? personal finance Campaign Team Leader Doug Taylor said: 'Banks charge as much as GBP 35 just to send a letter telling someone they're overdrawn. These charges are nothing but an easy money-spinner.

'We think charges should be fair and reflect the costs involved, rather than an arbitrary figure picked to make the most money out of unsuspecting customers. We're now calling on banks to come clean about their charging structures.'

The BCSB said other complaint themes were banks' mistakes and transactions going astray. The way banks dealt with people in financial difficulty also came under fire, and so did banks' handling of complaints.

More complaints

Complaints made to the BCSB aren't the whole picture - many consumers go to the Financial Ombudsman Service first. It receives more than 100,000 complaints a year.

The BCSB's figures come just weeks after the Office of Fair Trading slammed banks for 'unfair' credit card penalty charges.

Big banks do badly in Which? customer satisfaction surveys and tend to charge more than other banks. If you're unhappy with your bank, follow our guide to making a complaint.