What can I do?
If you think you have been mis-sold a financial product or have suffered from bank misconduct, read on….
It is important that you complain to your bank. There are many reasons why this can be difficult, especially if you are complaining about the actions of current bank personnel, but it is important that you do. If people don’t complain, banks continue to get away with treating their customers badly and their culture can never change. Here are the steps we recommend:
- Join Bully-Banks
You are not alone. Whatever your experiences, they will have been shared by many others. Bully-Banks’ members have seen it all! The resources of the various banks ensure that singly each individual is at a major disadvantage. By acting together that disadvantage can be minimised.Joining will give you vital moral support, and you will be part of an organisation which really makes a difference for SMEs. Membership also enables you to access information from the full website, receive newsletters, join in the Members’ Forum conversations and attend members’ conferences.Without member’s contributions Bully-Banks cannot exist. Our work is voluntary and we need ongoing annual contributions to carry on. We also ask that members consider donating just 1% of their redress payment to us. Click HERE to join
- Educate yourself
It has never been truer that ‘knowledge is power’ and you should equip yourself as best you can. This website is a great place to start. Many banks’ automatic reaction to a complaint is to fob customers off. You must be prepared for this and be able to argue your case, either yourself or by identifying advisors who can help you.
- Do a Subject Access Request (SAR)
Under the Data Protection Act you can ask for personal information held about you https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/personal-information/. It is important to obtain disclosure of as much information from the bank as possible, to understand what is in their hands.If you are a sole trader this should result in a great deal of loan documentation, and internal and external correspondence being sent to you. If you are a Director of a limited company, you will receive less because only that which related directly to you will be sent.It is advisable to do an SAR as a first step but it is also possible to make further requests later.A suggested draft letter to the Bank is set out HERE (this example is for IRHP mis-selling), and you must include £10 with your request.
Dear Sir/Madam(Insert Company or Owner’s Name): Subject Access Request
Loan Account: XXXX; Sort Code: XXXX
We formally request that you supply to us all the information that (insert bank name), and your investment banking division (insert investment banking division name) together herein called “the Bank”, hold about myself and my company to which I am entitled pursuant to S.7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (“the Act”).
Such information should include, but is not limited to, the following:
Copies of all correspondence, whether by letter, e-mail or fax issued by the Bank to ourselves and any correspondence from ourselves in response.
Copies of all correspondence, whether by letter, e-mail or fax exchanged with the Bank in regard to the (insert hedge instrument, for example interest rate swap or interest rate collar) entered into on (insert date of hedging agreement).
Copies of all internal correspondence including notes relating to meetings held or conversations undertaken relating to ourselves and our business.
Transcripts and/or recordings of all recorded telephone conversations between (insert the name of the Bank’s Derivative Expert who sold the IRSA) and me or (Insert name of relevant individuals eg. fellow directors, fellow owners).
Details of the financial benefit received by (insert the name of the Bank’s Derivative Expert who sold the IRSA) and my Relationship Manager as a result of my entering into the IRSA.
(IF A COMPANY) We recognise that the Data Protection Act 1998 refers to individuals, and not company names, however, in this regard we are entitled to see each and every piece of correspondence which makes mention of our personal names, wherever mentioned, these names being (insert full name/s)
Pursuant to S.7(2)(b) of that Act we also enclose a fee of £10 in relation to this request. If you require any further information from us, we would request that you notify us to this effect as soon as practicable.
We look forward to receiving your response promptly and, in any event, within the prescribed period of 40 days.
- Get help and advice
It is always helpful to talk to other Bully-Banks members who have been in a similar position. The online Members’ Forum (link) and our conferences (link) are great opportunities to share your experience, learn about the issues and get suggestions as to what you should do.There are many claims management companies, lawyers and other experts (such as derivatives experts and actuaries) who could help you but it is vital you choose those with an established track record of claims of your type. Many people have jumped on the bandwagon of providing these services but their experience and quality varies greatly. All claims managers should be registered with the Ministry of Justice. Try to get a recommendation and ask detailed questions about their experience and successes.Claims managers normally charge you a significant percentage of any redress payments. Lawyers normally operate on an hourly rate and will sometimes review your documentation for free in the first instance to assess whether your claim is strong enough.
- Consider a Standstill Agreement
Litigation against a bank has to be made within 6 years of the event (5 years in Scotland). Banks will waste time if you are close to this limitation period, knowing that you won’t be able to claim against them, so if you are close to this date contact a solicitor who can initiate a Standstill Agreement before time runs out. This will give you the right to litigate at a later date if necessary.
- Make a written complaint
Most importantly you must always to raise a formal written complaint with your bank. You can either do this directly to their complaints department or via your contact at the bank. Be very specific about exactly what you are complaining about, and say exactly what you want them to do about it. You can either write this yourself or engage the services of your advisers.
- Action subsequent to a rejection of your complaint
Bank often don’t fully uphold your complaint immediately. Sometimes they dismiss your complaint completely in the hope that you’ll drop it. They also have a strategy of making poor offers they think they can get away with, such as offering low redress payments or alternative products. This is because they know that some people will accept them through ignorance or desperation. Do not be deterred by a negative or inadequate response. You will often need to persevere.
- Pursue your complaint by providing further information to the bank. It is advisable at this stage to engage professional help if you haven’t already.
- Complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (link). Again it can be beneficial to receive professional advice or for the complaint to be written on your behalf by a lawyer or other expert.
- Inform your MP about your situation and ask them to write to the bank about your complaint. Banks don’t like getting letters from MP; they may well appear to fob the MP off as well but it does serve to focus their attention. You may have more than one MP if your business is in a different area to where you live.
- Obtain a barrister’s opinion and if it is positive, pursue a legal complaint where compensation is unlimited and costs are recoverable from the bank. The decision to follow this route cannot be taken lightly and more information is HERE.