Types of complaint we see
Consumers sometimes complain that their bank has closed their account unfairly. This might be because the bank:
- made a factual or administrative mistake
- gave them conflicting information or advice
- discriminated against them
- didn’t follow its own procedures properly
- didn’t give them enough notice
- go overdrawn without an agreed overdraft in place
- exceed the agreed overdraft limit, if you have one
- make payments (or try to make payments) when there isn’t enough money in your account
They’re not the same as standard monthly charges such as account usage fees, or fees for special services such as CHAPS payments.
Consumers typically complain that:
- their current account charges are too high
- their bank shouldn't have applied the charges
- there was a sudden increase or other change to the way their bank applied the charges
The current account switch service allows customers of banks to switch their current account to a new provider in a simple and stress-free way.
This service comes with a switch guarantee, which means that your new bank takes care of closing your old account, moving your balance and switching your payments within 7 working days.
Consumers’ complaints are generally about the provider of the new account. They may complain that:
- there was a problem with, or caused by, the closing of the old account
- there was a problem with the collection of direct debits from the new account
- they incurred charges or had issues with their credit report because of a direct debit not being paid
- the bank took longer than expected to switch accounts
- the bank didn’t pay them the incentive for switching accounts
- the bank didn’t issue them with debit cards for their new account
- the bank didn’t transfer an existing overdraft or offer a new overdraft
The rules that govern our service set out the businesses and activities the Financial Ombudsman Service can consider complaints about. The distribution of profits to account holders – for example, the Nationwide’s Fairer Share Payment scheme – is not usually an activity we can consider complaints about.
Complaints that concern the setting of eligibility criteria of the scheme, how it was advertised, the amount of the payment or how it was paid, are unlikely to fall within our jurisdiction.
However, if there was an issue with your account which prevented you from meeting the eligibility criteria, we may be able to help.
We issued a news update on Nationwide’s Fairer Share Payment scheme to update Nationwide members who wanted to make a complaint to us about this particular scheme and how we might be able to help.
A packaged bank account is a current account that comes with additional features, such as travel insurance or a preferential overdraft rate, for a monthly fee.
Consumers sometimes complain their bank mis-sold them the account because they:
- weren’t given a choice between a packaged account and a free one
- weren’t aware of how much the account would cost or what features would be available
- were unable to use one of the account’s features
- didn’t want or need some of the features included with the account because they already had these things separately
- didn’t know they had a packaged bank account
- were told by the bank that they had to open the account to get another product or service, such as an overdraft, credit card or loan
Find out more about what you can do if you have a complaint about a packaged bank account.
We sometimes see complaints where:
- the consumer discovers an old bank or building society passbook — which might be their own, or one that — belongs to a relative who has died;
- the passbook shows a balance of money apparently still in the account, and
- the bank or building society says the account is no longer open but cannot say exactly when it was closed, or produce a copy of the customer's signature withdrawing the balance and closing the account. Because the bank or building society is unable to produce a record of how and when the account was closed, and the consumer holds a passbook that seems to show there is still money held in the account for them, the consumer refers the complaint to us.
A dormant account is one that is not being used, and where the financial business has lost touch with the customer. After an account becomes dormant, it is transferred to a separate register of dormant accounts (there may be individual ones for each branch). It is recorded under the name of the customer. After a time, the account number might be reused for someone else's active account.
A dormant account remains in the register of dormant accounts indefinitely, until the customer gets in touch with the financial business to claim the account. The financial business can never claim the money for itself, no matter how much time has passed.
Consumers sometimes complain that:
- their bank unfairly reduced the interest rate on their savings account
- they didn’t realise they could have moved their money to another account paying a better rate of interest
- they didn’t realise their account’s initial interest-rate deal had ended and they were receiving a lower rate of interest
- their bank advised them incorrectly about using their account and how this might affect their account’s interest rate
We sometimes hear from consumers who are unhappy that their bank has “set off” some of their money against a debt they owe.
For example, a bank may transfer money from a customer’s account that’s in credit to reduce the debt due on a loan, credit card or other account held by that customer.
What we look at
If you complain to us about a problem with a bank account, we'll usually look at:
- the law, rules and regulations in place at the time
- good industry practice at the time
- the terms and conditions of your account
We'll also look at whether there are other reasons behind your complaint — for example, are you having financial difficulty?
Your bank is entitled to block, review and close your bank account.
We would expect them to treat you fairly and close your account in line with their statutory, regulatory and legal obligations, as well as the terms and conditions of the account. If they have done this, it’s unlikely we will say they’ve been unfair – even if you haven’t been given notice.
Basic bank accounts have a different set of rules about how much notice should be given to customers.
When we’re dealing with complaints about this, we will consider the following rules and guidance:
Banking Conduct of Business Sourcebook (BCOBS) in the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) handbook
Standards of Lending Practice where an account is overdrawn
Regulation 26 of the Payment Accounts Regulations 2015 for complaints about basic bank accounts closures
Your bank has a right to charge you for certain things like exceeding the overdraft limit on your current account.
We're unlikely to consider these charges unfair because of how much they cost, but we will look at whether the bank acted fairly in making any changes to these charges.
For example, we'll look at whether the bank:
- didn't follow your account's terms and conditions in making the changes
- told you why they were introducing the changes
- told you about the changes in advance and in a clear, easy-to-understand way
- gave you the chance to discuss other options
If your current account charges feel unmanageable because you're experiencing financial difficulty, it's important to let your bank know. We'd expect the bank to have taken this into account when they responded to your complaint.
We'll look at whether the provider of your new account did anything wrong of unfairly when they switched your current account. This may include looking at:
- what information the bank gave you during the application process and whether they directed you to, and/or clearly explained, the terms and conditions of the switch offer and/or the new account
- whether they fulfilled the conditions of the switch guarantee
- what they did to put things right once they became aware of your problem
We'll look at how the bank sold the packaged account to you. This may include looking at whether they:
- gave you a fair choice and, if relevant, offered free alternatives
- clearly explained the account's features
- told you how much the account would cost
- misled you about how much you might save by choosing the account
If you haven't used all the features of the account, we're unlikely to agree the bank was wrong to sell it to you. But if you didn't want, couldn't use or didn't need any of the account's features, we're likely to say it wasn't right for you.
When we investigate these cases, we will review all the available evidence. Because these complaints often involve accounts where there have been no transactions for many years – or perhaps even decades – it is not usually possible to trace clear documentary evidence about exactly what happened.
So we will use what evidence we have, to decide what probably happened. We’ll consider whether any time limits apply in all cases – but we’ll usually say these start from when you found the passbook and found out the account no longer exists.
In most cases, we don’t find any new evidence to show the account isn’t closed – but if we do, we’ll look at what compensation should be paid.
Your bank is entitled to set and change interest rates on savings accounts. But we can look at whether they applied any changes to interest rates fairly.
We'll usually look at:
- the terms and conditions that applied to your account when the bank changed the interest rate and whether they followed these correctly
- whether the bank gave you:
- any advice when opening the account – and, if so, whether that advice was reasonable
- clear and timely information about any changes to your account's terms and conditions or its interest rate
- what steps you took once you became aware of the problem
Your bank has a right to use money you hold in one account to reduce the debt you owe on a loan, credit card or other account. This is known as the “right of set off”.
We’ll look at whether your bank used this right fairly. For example, we’d usually expect them to have:
- given you a reasonable opportunity to repay the debt before they took money from another account
- given you general information about their right to set off at least 14 days before using it
- checked you hold both accounts in the same capacity (for example, both accounts are solely in your name)
How to complain
Talk to your bank first so that they have the chance to put things right. They need to give you their final response within 15 days for some of the types of complaint mentioned here (although, in some circumstances, they’ll have up to 8 weeks). If you’re unhappy with their response, or if they don’t respond, or you would like some more information about which timescales apply, let us know.
We’ll check your complaint is something we can deal with, and if it is, we’ll investigate to understand what happened and what went wrong.
Find out more about making a complaint.
Putting things right
If we think your bank has done something wrong or treated you unfairly, we’ll ask them to put things right. This will depend on the individual circumstances and how you’ve been affected – it could include:
- putting you back in the position you would have been in had the problem you’ve complained about not happened
- refunding charges and interest
- compensating you for any distress and inconvenience
- amending adverse credit information about you
A consumer complains he can’t afford increased overdraft charges