How strong is the Ombudsman?

Whiteknight_tenniel

Here is a good example of a bank defying the law. Shortly after I had ranted about this in a recent post, I found an article on the subject in The Guardian.

It’s a perfect illustration of the banks’ breathtaking conceit.

A Barclaycard customer, referred to as AW, felt  that Barclays had mis-sold PPI to her. She applied to the Financial Ombudsman and they agreed with her. The bank was given until December 2012 to tell the Ombudsman how it was going to reimburse her.

Of course, the bank did no such thing. Why should it? Was the Ombudsman going to whack ’em and whack ’em until they behaved?

AW ‘phoned Barclays repeatedly to ask about it but was told that they could not discuss it with her as the Ombudsman was dealing with the matter.

This is the usual, familiar pattern. The bank is effectively saying, “How dare you take me to task? Who do you think you are?”

This saga dragged on for several months, and the Ombudsman had no success in getting the bank to comply with its instructions. Surprise, surprise.

AW contacted The Guardian about the case, the newspaper approached the bank, and now the money has been repaid with interest.

So there’s the answer, let newspapers regulate the banks, and then the Financial Ombudsman Service can be closed down and the savings can be passed on to customers.

I’ve no doubt that, when the Ombudsman canters to your assistance, it does so with the best of intentions. It’s just so ineffectual. Chocolate teapots are more fit for purpose.

You might think that many people who receive compensation for mis-sold PPI don’t really deserve it. There are valid arguments on both sides of that question, but the issue here is something different.

There has been a long debate on the matter, legal precedents have been set, and the regulator has decreed how these claims should be dealt with. The Ombudsman has made a ruling, and given a deadline. All of this is as nothing. Barclays continues to thumb its corporate nose at all authority.

Is there no way to make these arrogant organisations behave with decency? Yes, as this example shows, banks laugh at customers, treat regulatory authorities with scorn, but are terrified of bad publicity. It hits them in the money-bags.

They all have social networking accounts that they use to show you the life-affirming effects of giving them your money. If you have a problem with your bank, visit its Facebook page. Begin a civilised conversation. Discuss your complaint in public, if they refuse to discuss it in private.

Let’s make life uncomfortable for them.

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