Regular readers will already be aware that I have as much time for bankers as a starlet has for a zit on premiere night. You’ll know what I mean when you have a look at previous attempts on Talk Northern Ireland to highlight their dodgy practices – You can’t keep a “good” bank down…..
When a person finds themselves in financial trouble we’d all advise that person to seek help from an organisation experienced in debt-management -like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. After all, the first step to getting out of financial trouble is recognising that you’re in it! Seeking help from experts is the hardest step but when it is taken you expect relief. At this point you expect that a professional organisation, which banks claim to be, that has made stacks of money out of you over the years would be supportive of your attempts to get back on an even keel. That way they can get back to doing what they do best – making stacks of money out of you in the future! A solvent customer is better than a penniless one.. an ordinary person would think. Hence, our general support for rescuing the Northern Rock after it followed other banks greedy and suspect financial practices in the sub-prime fiasco.
But banks don’t treat customers as politicians treat banks on our behalf. When a customer is in trouble the banks go all out – for the jugular! The BBC’s Breakfast programme has conducted an investigation that found:-
“.some customers who have an agreed debt repayment plan with a debt advice charity are being put under pressure to take out loans, sometimes at a higher interest rate than they are already paying.
One HSBC customer, Simon Chandler, said that even though he had declined the bank’s offer of a “managed loan”, they had continually telephoned him to try and make him change his mind.
The interest rate on the managed loan is 13% – double what he is paying at the moment.”
So the bank’s “managed loan” is pushed hard at customers when they are at their MOST vulnerable and when they are most stressed. This is happening despite the banks having been asked to deal solely with the debt management agency. The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) said it was:-
“…aware of many cases in which people in debt have offered to make payments where the bank has asked for more than they can afford.
In some cases, customers had asked their bank to deal with a debt advice charity, yet they were still being sent aggressive letters and receiving pushy phone calls.”
A CAB spokesperson, Peter Tutton is quoted by the BBC as saying:-
“We see a lot of cases of people coming in who have tried to talk to their banks about arranged payments and they haven’t been listened to, and they have been asked for more than they can afford.
“Typically people find that, even after they have been dealing with us, they have found that they have been continued to be written to. They get aggressive letters and phone calls from their lenders.”
Why does NOTHING in this story surprise me? Well…simply because, to my mind, banking institutions have always been the last refuge of scoundrels – merely organised thieves and robbers in suits. Beware money lenders! And just because they have been lending money for centuries does not mean ordinary people should be fooled into thinking these are respectable people working for the good of society in general. They are working – would they know real work if they had to do it? – to feather their own nests at the expense of us all.
For way too long we have let our world be dominated by these unscrupulous manipulators, money lenders and bandits. We ignore the pain they cause to small people with their wheeling and dealing until we realise that we are the small people who are being ripped off. Sadly, at the point of realisation… the bank’s bailiffs are already at our doors and it’s too late.
So… well done the BBC for exposing bank practices on this occasion … please do keep digging for there is more dirty laundry to discover and reveal. The customer in your report was from HSBC but you can bet your last penny that all the banks are at the same tricks.
But… isn’t it time our political leaders started to take an interest in what the banks do? You’re there to protect us guys so, perhaps, when you’ve finished supping brandy and chomping on mince pies with the leading bank managers at the local Chamber of Commerce Christmas do, you might want to ask your mates pointedly how they are treating Northern Ireland customers who are in financial difficulties. And if you’re not happy with the answer………… come back to me here and we’ll advise you what to do.
Oh.. and if there happens to be a bank worker around here who cares to defend their employers…. I’d love to hear from you in this debate but I suspect you’re probably too busy counting your money and thinking up other ways to scam ordinary customers.