Yes. I know. I can hear you shouting at me. It’s obvious why banks are above the law. They hold such a special place in the hearts of the people that they are allowed freedoms that are denied to mere mortals.
Despite all that, I’m still puzzled about a few things.
Any other professional has a duty to take reasonable care of their client’s interests. If your doctor prescribes medication for you that makes your leg fall off, the courts take a dim view of it. Your doctor knows this, and tries not to make that mistake.
This duty goes further. It is not only what professionals say and do that they need to be careful of. They are also liable for the results of what they don’t say and don’t do.
If a road-mender digs a nice big hole in the middle of the road, it will be perfectly easy to see it. It should be obvious to anyone that if they fall into it they’ll get hurt. If they’re stupid enough to fall in, it’s their own fault if they get injured. Not true, is it? That road-mender had better take care to set up signs and barriers that are as close to idiot-proof as possible. If not, and you are injured, your Local Authority will have to pay you lots and lots of money.
Banks are wonderfully insulated from this responsibility.
Many complaints against banks arise from their failure to inform customers about risk. As an example, in the vishing fraud that I discussed in an earlier post, it’s possible to ‘phone your bank and end up talking to a fraudster. As this fraud becomes better known, people feel duty-bound to tell others how to avoid it. People outside the banks, that is.
Then there are the complaints about being sold insurance that can’t be claimed against, or interest rate swaps that could bankrupt you.
Banks see no need to warn their customers. It doesn’t matter to them that they are required by law to protect them. Because of their special position, complying with the law seems to be optional.
This is so ingrained that if you were to have the temerity to question your bank about this, they wouldn’t answer you. They wouldn’t shout at you. Their face would just take on a painful, puzzled look as they struggled to translate your question into Bankese. They will fail. It does not compute.
- Gilchrist on Banks and Crime (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Video: How to avoid ‘vishing’ phone con (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Online fraud: How easy is it to be conned? (bbc.co.uk)