Bank faces inquiry over debtor's suicideCustomer ran up £130,000 worth of debts

03 July 2006

One of Britain's biggest banks is facing a probe after it emerged a customer killed himself after running up credit card debts of GBP 130,000.

Richard Cullen, 65, a mechanic from Wiltshire, amassed the debts on 22 different credit cards with 16 different providers.

But he'd been allowed to go into the red by more than GBP 35,000 through four cards belonging to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) alone.

The RBS cards were responsible for GBP 4,300 in interest and charges in the last year of his life, almost a third of his GBP 15,000 annual income.

But despite the debts Mr Cullen, who was later found dead in his garage, had his credit limit on another card run by the same group extended from GBP 1,000 to GBP 7,700.

Bank investigation

The case was featured in a Panorama programme last night and Seymour Fortescue, Chief Executive of the Banking Code Standards Board (BCSB), said he would investigate to see if RBS had breached the code.

'I find it extraordinary that this has happened. I think it is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing and there is no excuse for that. This is wrong. I will investigate to see if there has been a breach of the banking code.'

Mr Cullen's widow Wendy said: 'Richard had a responsibility, he took out the credit cards and loans, but surely the bank must take responsibility as well for allowing him to go on and on getting deeper and deeper into debt.'

In a statement, RBS told the BBC that it was not aware Mr Cullen had a serious debt problem and said it did not make any errors in the handling of his account.

The bank said he was a customer of 14 years and that he did not make it aware of the huge debt he had accumulated with a total of 16 providers.