Jeff Salway: Scams, rip-offs and dirty tricks galore – and PPI scandal isn’t over

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From the original mis-selling to the claims management cowboys cashing in on the compensation bonanza, the payment protection insurance (PPI) saga is a veritable Russian doll of scandals.

Stories of the dirty tricks employed in the mis-selling of PPI are legion. Then we had the desperate legal bid by the banks to prevent them having to re-open old PPI cases.

Then the complaints handlers joined the fray, making millions by misleading people into believing they had a better chance of compensation if they used their services. As if that wasn’t enough potential consumer detriment, fraudsters got in on the act, using the promise of a possible PPI windfall in a bid to secure their personal details.

So while the banks have set aside more than £12 billion to compensate PPI mis-selling victims – a bill that could rise to £20 billion – the real cost of the scandal is immeasurable.

And there’s more to come, it appears. Some PPI providers, not content with fudging valid compensation claims, are getting their own back on the customers who dared to complain.

I heard this week from a Scotsman reader who successfully made a PPI claim through the Financial Ombudsman Service, although the provider is contesting it and no redress has yet been paid.

She had always cleared her bill on time, but the PPI case coincided with a stark change in attitude on the part of the provider, which last month cancelled her credit card and put a default mark on her credit.

It did so all because of one marginally late payment that the firm prevented her from clearing by the quickest method. Before she could repay in a way that was agreeable to the provider, however, the default was applied, leaving a six-year mark on her credit record.

It may well be mere coincidence, except it’s not an isolated case. I heard a similar tale last week and internet messageboards reveal that a number of people have suffered suspiciously harsh treatment by their banks in the wake of PPI claims.

You could write a book on the scams, rip-offs and dirty tricks associated with the PPI saga alone. Claims management companies now have their eye on the mis-selling of interest-only mortgages during the housing market boom. But the PPI scandal isn’t over yet; the stink will linger for years to come.

Investors weighing up the markets outlook will have welcomed the certainty provided by the US election this week. History even suggests it may be the best possible outcome for investors – markets typically respond most strongly following the re-election of a Democrat incumbent.

Yet the biggest challenge lies ahead, in the form of the fiscal cliff that has to be dealt with by a Democrat president and a Republican house of representatives. Failure to resolve it could hit GDP by as much as 5 per cent.

How the US market plays out over the coming months is just one of several issues preoccupying private investors. What’s the outlook for gilts? What are the chances of a resolution in the eurozone crisis? Where are the global investment hotspots? Where are the biggest gains in a low growth environment?

Fortunately, The Scotsman is this month getting some of the country’s foremost investment minds together to tackle such questions.

Our 20 November conference at Edinburgh’s Hilton Grosvenor – Markets 2012: Where to from Here? - features leading figures including Alliance Trust’s Katherine Garrett-Cox, Alan Porter of Martin Currie and Robin Angus of Personal Assets Trust.

I may be biased, but the timing of the event couldn’t be much better for anyone with an interest in the economic and investment outlook, from financial advisers to curious market bystanders.

For more information call 0131 620 8656, email: or visit