“It’s all your own fault”

bank vault

The banks are keen to tell us that they have changed. They have seen the error of their ways. Everything that they do now is centred on their customers. Billions are to be spent on improving customer experience.

I suppose we should be grateful. It’s been a long time coming, but we can only welcome such a change of heart.

Is it too much to hope that, after this epiphany, they will stop treating customers as fools or criminals?

Trevor Smith had £35,000 taken from his account by fraudsters. He had no involvement in the transactions. His bank allowed someone to change the address on his account, order a new debit card, and go on a spending spree. Large payments were made in London at exactly the same time as Mr Smith was spending moderate amounts at home in Dorset. The bank did not see any problem in this.

His bank has denied all responsibility. It must be the customer’s fault. He must have allowed his personal details to fall into the hands of criminals. No other explanation is possible.

Really? When our money is safeguarded by companies with outdated systems, and a small but determined number of employees who steal from customers or sell their personal details to fraudsters? No other explanation? When a bank’s anti-fraud software thinks that £180,000 for a pizza is a perfectly normal transaction?

It’s no surprise that the bank has chosen to blame its customers. The alternative is to reimburse them for the losses that the bank has allowed to happen. Worse, it might have to do something about its woeful systems.

There’s little chance of this attitude changing. The current conventions encourage it. If there is any suspicion that a bank has let a customer down, there will be a thorough investigation – carried out by the bank. Then the bank will judge whether it is guilty, and if so set its own punishment. Would we tolerate this nonsense anywhere else?

imagine a company selling tinned salmon. The tins are regularly laced with botulism. Should it be left to that company to decide if an offence has been committed?  Would we let it apply any punishment that it though fit?

Until we have a better arrangement, where retail banks take responsibility for the quality of their products, like any other shopkeeper, we will have thousands of customers each year paying the price for the banks’ inadequacies.

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