DCSIMG

Jeff Salway: Lloyds is lucky to get off so lightly

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

YET more revelations last week concerning the shoddy treatment of customers by banks were met by little more than a collective shrug. We’re now immune to their antics and indifferent to their incompetence, it would seem.

For all the coverage of the £4.3 million fine slapped on Lloyds for delaying redress payments to PPI mis-selling victims, there was no sense of shock or anger.

In a nutshell, PPI providers were obliged by Financial Services Authority (FSA) rules to identify victims of mis-selling and compensate them within 28 days. The FSA found that of more than 582,000 people sent letters from Lloyds brands including Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB Scotland saying they would be paid redress, 56,000 had to wait more than 60 days for their money. Another 29,000 had to wait three months, and 8,000 more than six months.

Somehow, almost 25,000 people fell out of the process entirely and had to chase the bank for their compensation.

The response from Lloyds was tantamount to claiming that the dog ate its homework.

It claimed, apparently without tongue in cheek, that it hadn’t expected so many complaints. Yet it’s estimated that at least a third of mis-sold PPI has not yet been claimed.

The regulator’s admonishment begs the question as to what constitutes a serious breach. The litany of failures is extensive, yet the FSA deemed it only a “level two” breach on a scale of one to five, the latter being the most serious.

The level depends on factors including potential loss suffered by consumers, any advantage to the culprit and whether the breach was deliberate.

You could argue that Lloyds was lucky to get away with a level two punishment, if you believe the so-called failures could have been a deliberate attempt to shortchange customers. But that would be cynical, wouldn’t it?

Billions in benefits lying untouched

THE so-called bedroom tax baffles me. Not only is it unfair and punitive, it’s also utterly pointless. By cutting the housing benefit paid to people deemed to have one or more spare rooms, the UK government claims it will trim the annual cost of the benefit by £500 million.

That figure has been plucked out of thin air, opponents say, not least because in parts of the UK the savings will be more than offset by the cost of rehousing social tenants.

Benefit fraud costs the taxpayer £1.2 billion a year, the government’s own figures show. You’ve probably seen that figure bandied about a lot. You may also be familiar with the £30bn estimated annual cost of corporate tax evasion or avoidance.

What you won’t hear about is the £16bn worth of benefits that goes unclaimed. Clearly it’s not in the government’s interest to promote unclaimed benefits.

Yet a concerted push to improve awareness of those payments could go a long way to helping reduce the burden on households feeling the pinch. Around £2.4bn of pension credit goes unclaimed every year, according to the latest Tax Action report from Unbiased.co.uk. Another £2.16bn of child tax credit and £2.7bn of working tax credit is left untouched.

If a fraction of the time spent depicting benefits recipients as shirkers – including the disabled and terminally ill – had been devoted to helping the rapidly growing number of households in financial difficulties, we might stand a chance of tackling the scourge of the payday loan sharks.

 

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