Smith calls for crack down on banks that mishandle complaints

Latest Financial Ombudsman report shows banks have learned nothing

Cavan-Monaghan Deputy Brendan Smith has called for tougher fines for financial institutions that repeatedly mistreat customers and mishandle complaints.

The Fianna Fáil Deputy was reacting to a report from the Financial Services Ombudsman published this week, which shows another increase in complaints against financial institutions.

“This is more damming evidence of an unacceptable culture within the banking system and a total unwillingness to change,” said Deputy Smith. “It is clear from this report that the banks have learned absolutely nothing and have no interest in pursuing the kind of reform that the system so desperately needs.

“While the banks refuse to play ball, the government continues to sit on its hands instead of tackling the issue head on. Meanwhile the mortgage arrears crisis worsens every single day, customers fall deeper into unmanageable debt and many people feel there is no help in sight.

“This report backs up what I hear every day from bank customers across Cavan and Monaghan – the banks are continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again and are simply refusing to change their practices in the interests of customers. This level of repeat offences cannot be tolerated.

“The government has agreed to pursue new legislation, originally proposed by Fianna Fáil 18 months ago, to allow the Ombudsman to name and shame banks who mistreat their customers. The Ministerial Order to give effect to this law must be signed immediately so there is a greater incentive for banks to improve their customer relations. I also believe that just as banks have targets on mortgage resolutions, they must also have targets for dealing with customer complaints within a reasonable length of time and by staff with the necessary training.

“Fine Gael are great at talking around this issue without taking any real action that will force change within the banking sector. We need a new and tougher approach as it’s clear the banks are showing absolutely no intention of reforming on their own,” said Deputy Smith.

23rd August 2013