Posts Tagged ‘compensation’
Things are looking up! Even HMRC are getting better at dealing with customers, even if the proportion of complaints upheld by the Adjudicator’s office has only dropped by 5% it’s a start. Right?
The adjudicator’s office has just released its annual report for 2014/15 which shows similar numbers of complaints about HMRC, although a slight improvement on last year’s report with now only 85% of complaints being upheld. While the adjudicator acknowledges that many of the serious complaints about HMRC relate to one specific bad-apple department (benefits and credits), sha also noted that HMRC show “a somewhat limited appetite for reflection and learning from their interaction with customers.” Nice. 1108
Out of the 1,102 total complaints received by the adjudicator’s office, 95% related to HMRC- 1,044 new complaints, just slightly fewer than the 1,087 received in 2013/14. Of the cases cleared this year, the adjudicator upheld a whopping (although improved) 85% either partially or substantially.
The adjudicator also mediated 39% of cases directly between customers and the department and praised HMRC for getting much better at dealing with customers and complaints around PAYE but noted that the latter half of 2014/15 saw a rise in complaints from Benefits & Credits customers about tax credits. But these two areas are still very much determined in the customers’ favour- the number of PAYE complaints upheld decreased to 91%, but for Tax Credits the upheld rate increased to 93%.
In particular, the adjudicator “remains critical” of the number of complaints where HMRC staff failed to consider the circumstances of their ‘vulnerable customers’, and urged the departments to use their discretion. What has also been highlighted in this year’s report is the amount of compensation paid by HMRC in respect of their rubbishness- on occasion, the adjudicator may recommend that HMRC pay a monetary sum to customers in recognition of the poor level of service they received, and any relevant costs. And this compo adds up to quite a tidy sum:
However, the report does suggest that HMRC have implemented new customer care procedures, meaning that this time next year it’ll be a totally different story. Right?
If you are lucky enough to have been paid this month, you might indeed be planning a little bank holiday getaway. Unfortunately, so is everyone else, with Which!!! calculating that nearly 10 million people are planning a getaway this weekend- which will inevitably lead to travel delays.
A fifth of the UK public plan to travel over the August bank holiday, with 62% of those taking to the road in cars and buses, 17% by plane and 15% travelling on trains. Almost half of those planning to travel this weekend are expecting a delay of some kind.
As a result, three quarters of bank holiday travellers are planning to alter their journey, with the most common concessions being leaving more time, travelling outside of peak hours or even travelling overnight, perhaps with a stop somewhere.
If you’re travelling by car, beware as August is traditionally the busiest month on the roads with motorway traffic 9% higher than average. The busiest roads (and therefore the ones to avoid if at all possible) are the M25, Manchester’s ringroad the M60 and the M1 south of the M6 junction at Rugby.
Those travelling by plane are also more likely to be delayed in August than any other month. Which!!! counted 38,000 flights delayed by 15 minutes or more last year, and 790 flights delayed by three hours or more, which could then be entitled to delayed flight compensation.
Finally, those travelling by train have not only bank holiday cramming to contend with, but also a number of major engineering works this weekend. And we all know that trains are always late in any case- just make sure you’ve looked up your train company’s compensation policy beforehand…
Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd said, helpfully: “We all want to make the most of the bank holiday weekend, and with so many people looking to travel it’s important to plan ahead. Some delays are unavoidable, but if you’ve bought a ticket for an airline, coach or train journey then you could be entitled to compensation.”
Everyone who flies with Ryanair will now have up to six years to claim money back from the airline if their flight is delayed, according to a court. Of course, Ryanair tried to limit the compo window to two years, but to no avail.
This ruling is likely to have a wider implication for the rest of the industry too.
The legal challenge was brought by two passengers, known as Goel and Trivedi, and they’d missed their two year Ryanair window, when they were trying to get money back after a delay of a flight. Thanks to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling (Dawson v Thomson Airways), there’s a limitation period for compensation at six years, but Ryanair tried to argue that only two years apply to their customers, thanks to a clause in their t&cs.
Winning claimants Bott & Co Solicitors said: “We’re delighted that the court has dismissed yet another argument put forward by the airlines to restrict passenger rights. The Supreme Court decision last year said passengers have six years to bring a claim.”
“That is a definitive, binding, clear judgement from the highest court in England and Wales. This should have concluded matters but unfortunately Ryanair have been able to tweak the argument; we found ourselves running a complicated court case arguing the fine points of contract law.”
So, if you thought you’d missed your chance to claim some money back from Ryanair, because you were outside the two year window, think again! The solicitors think that this could open up compensation for over 2 million passengers, with claims coming in around £610m. It is worth noting that this will only affect customers who flew with Ryanair before 2013.
Ryanair have released a statement about all this: “We note this ruling which reverses Lower Court orders that a 2 year time limit for claims is reasonable. Since we believe a 6 year time limit for submitting such claims is both unnecessary and unreasonable, we have instructed our lawyers to immediately appeal this ruling.”
It’s holiday season, which means many of you will be catching a flight to somewhere sunnier than here. But what happens if you get delayed? Latest Which!!! figures suggest that thousands of delayed people are missing out on claiming expenses and cold hard cash…
Which!!! analysed data for 1.7m flights from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data, and found that 9,000 flights were delayed by more than three hours in the last year, potentially entitling passengers on those flights to claim compensation. However, Which!!! reckon that only four in 10 people who were delayed claimed compensation, which adds up to millions of pounds.
They also calculated the worst offenders- with the worst UK airport for delays of three hours or more being Gatwick, with 2,134 flights affected over the 12 months to May 2015.
Passengers are most likely to experience delays of more than three hours on short-haul flights with Vueling, Monarch and Thomas Cook, which together accounted for more than 700 delays in the last year – which works out at 68,000 passenger journeys. For long-haul passengers, those flying with Pakistan International Airlines, Air India or American Airlines were most likely to be delayed, accounting for more than 400 flights – 40,500 passenger journeys.
According to Which!!!, the three largest airlines operating in the UK – Easyjet, BA and Ryanair, which operated nearly half of all flights for the period analysed – accounted for four in 10 delays of more than three hours.
But how can I claim?
If you are delayed and think you might have a claim, what can you claim for and under which circumstance? Well, under the EU Denied Boarding Regulation, what you’re entitled to depends on the length of your delay and the length of your flight. Find out how far your flight is using this useful checking tool (as an example, Gatwick to Rome is 918 miles). This is an EU ruling and governs all EU airlines and flights with non-EU airlines that leave from the EU. There’s even an app relating to the regulations that you can download to the smartphone of your choice.
The Regulation applies where you have a confirmed booking, and you checked in on time (or if no check-in time was given, then at least 45 minutes before your flight was scheduled to depart).
If your flight is delayed, you’re firstly entitled to some incidentals- two free phone calls, faxes or emails; free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay and free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required. You can also choose not to travel, and get a refund of the cost of your ticket if the delay lasts for five hours or more (but the flight is not cancelled)
However, the provisions only kick in after the following periods of delay:
a flight under 932 miles (for example, London to Venice) is delayed for at least two hours
a flight within the EU that is more than 932 miles (for example, London to Athens) is delayed by at least three hours
a flight that isn’t within the EU but is between 932 and 2,174 miles is delayed for at least three hours
any other flight delayed for at least three hours
However, if you are delayed by more than three hours, you may also be able to claim monetary compensation from the airline, although this is dependent on the reason for the delay, with certain circumstances (that are deemed ‘extraordinary’) exempting the airline from compensation payments. Airlines are very keen for circumstances to be considered exceptional, but binding EU court rulings in 2009 and 2012 have made it very clear that mechanical and technical faults are not, in fact, extraordinary and that courts should decide accordingly- in January 2013, Stoke-on-Trent county court ruled that Thomas Cook must pay compensation to passengers who, in 2009, had experienced a 22-hour delay caused by a mechanical fault, and in 2014, faulty wiring on a Jet2 plane was similarly unremarkable. Strikes, however, are normally included in ‘exceptional circumstances’, along with severe weather. Note that you can still claim for incidentals under exceptional delays, its just the cool hard cash you miss out on.
But assuming there are no such circumstances, you can claim a nice wedge to salve your ruffled feathers:
|Up to 1,500km (932 miles)||More than 3 hours||€250|
|Any flight within the EU over 1,500km (932 miles) or any other flight between 1,500km-3,500 km (2,175 miles)||More than 3 hours||€400|
|More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)||Between 3-4 hours||€300|
|More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)||More than 4 hours||€600|
Which!!! have even produced this handy tool to generate a claim letter using the relevant sections of the regulation. Which is nice of them.
Alton Towers are very likely to have to pay out millions to the victims of the Smiler rollercoaster crash, and they admitted ‘full responsibility’ for the accident, on the back of the news that Leah Washington’s injuries sustained from the crash has resulted in a leg amputation.
Nick Varney, CEO Merlin Entertainments said: “We are deeply saddened by the news about Leah and all our thoughts are with her and her family. We cannot undo the events of last week but everyone in the company and at Alton Towers is determined to do all we can to provide appropriate support to those who were injured and their families.”
In their latest statement, Alton Towers said: “Since the accident of last Tuesday we have done our best to provide appropriate communication and support to those involved and to their families.”
“We absolutely recognise what a difficult time this is for everyone, especially those who have been so seriously injured, and we have tried to do this in a way that is both sensitive and appropriate. Over the course of the weekend we have written again to all of the 16 people involved or to their families.”
“These letters were all hand delivered by Alton Towers representatives. Irrespective of the outcome of the current investigations into the causes of the accident, in these letters we have accepted full responsibility to those who had been injured in the accident and confirmed that we will ensure that compensation will be provided to them.”
“We have recommended each of the injured guests or their families instruct a lawyer and submit a claim for compensation which we will ensure is dealt with swiftly and sensitively.”
“In addition we have engaged the services of Health and Case Management Ltd (HCML) – a leading firm of specialist independent rehabilitation providers – to provide all of those involved with the best support for their individual needs whether from the NHS or by providing additional support and services. HCML has already made contact with some of those affected in order to progress this.”
As you have probably heard by now, O2 had a bit of a problem on Bank Holiday Monday, with thousands of customers losing all signal for up to eight whole hours. It’s just too painful to imagine. But to rub salt in the wound of already irate customers, O2 have announced that customers will not be getting a blanket compensation payment, but that anyone looking for redress will have to apply to the telecom company who will look at claims on a “case by case basis”.
After a previous outage, in 2012, pay-as-you-go customers were given a 10% boost to their next top-up and every customer was given a £10 voucher. This time, however, O2 says that even pay monthly customers will have to make a claim directly to O2. The difference, according to O2 is that the previous outage (which affected 7 million customers and took 20 hours to fix) was “quite exceptional” and that the same or similar compensation would not be offered again.
So far, the mobile service provider has no idea why this latest outage happened but said service had returned to normal by 11.35pm. A spokesman said: “This [outage] was on nowhere near the same scale, so we will only be offering compensation on a case-by-case basis.
“We will now begin a full investigation to understand the cause, and apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
However, just because there is no blanket compensation doesn’t mean that you can’t make a claim. O2 already has rules on customers who suffer from mobile phone “blackspots” where they regularly lose signal. However, it is quite (deliberately) difficult to actually get compensation under this scheme as monthly customers have to prove they have suffered intermittent signal and internet for three months, as well as showing they had lost signal or internet connection seven times in a given day – the “seven times” rule. O2 have so far refused to confirm if customers affected by yesterday’s blackout would need to adhere to the “seven times” rule, or whether they would be given a payout equal to one day’s contract fee.
Frustrated O2 users took to Twitter to ponder at what point the network is in breach of its contractual obligation to provide customers with a mobile telecommunications.service. We think providing no service is fairly clearly not providing a mobile telecommunications service
So what can you do? Well, you can try taking O2 to regulator Ofcom, who say that you may be entitled to compensation “if you believe you’ve been poorly treated by your phone company.” Let’s see if O2 decide to address their disgruntled customers before facing several thousand Ofcom complaints…
Forget last month’s story about the man who was kept on the phone for 96 minutes trying to cancel his Sky contract, Pete Swift from Edinburgh has finally managed to settle an ongoing dispute with Sky over cancelling his contract after two whole years. However, in a triumph for the underdog, he’s also been paid £1,500 in compensation to settle the £1,395 bill he slapped on Sky for his time spent in sorting out their mess.
The problems began in 2012 when Mr Swift moved to Leith in Edinburgh and cancelled his contract with Sky at that time. Unfortunately the cancellation never actually happened, and Mr Swift became intimately acquainted with a number of debt collectors over the next 18 months as Sky sent the dogs after him, for non-payment of a cancelled contract.
However, Mr Swift declined to take this lying down, and decided to take legal action, first contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau and then the Ombudsman. After speaking to the Ombudsman, Sky offered Mr Swift a £60 gesture of goodwill, but he was more concerned about the effect the error had had on his credit file. The Ombudsman said they could not do anything to rectify any blights upon his credit record, nor could they request any further compensation over and above the £60 offered.
Mr Swift decided this was just not good enough. “I told them that this sum was not proportionate to the hassle and frustrations I had experienced as a result of their error and was therefore not appropriate compensation,” he said, before deciding to take Sky to court over the matter. The 30-year-old research consultant billed Sky £25 an hour for all the calls he had had to make- to the Sky itself, to the ombudsman, and to various credit reference agencies and debt collection companies. In total, Mr Swift spent almost 56 hours on the phone, including 31 hours talking to Sky.
Two days before the court case was due to be heard, Sky said it would pay Mr Swift £1,500 for the time and money spent on trying to terminate his contract. He said: “When Sky finally agreed to cover the full settlement I had mixed emotions. On one hand I was really pleased to have the £1,500 and some form of resolution, but I was still very resentful of the lengths I’d had to go to and the way Sky had dealt with the situation,” adding that “Sky had contacted me the week before to try and talk me down to a lower sum of £500.”
He continued: “The whole time I was dealing with them it just felt like I was being fobbed off with the bare minimum they could get away with. There was never really an acknowledgement that something was wrong procedurally that needed to be addressed, it just felt like a case of let’s pay off the complaining customer so he shuts up.” Fortunately, Mr Swift has told his story to the national press before going away and shutting up as Sky would presumably have preferred, giving hope and inspiration to anyone else out there being walked all over by a big corporation.
Sky said the issue was due to a technical fault with its systems, meaning his cancellation was not recorded on his file. A spokesman for Sky said: “Our staff work hard to deliver great service. However, in Mr Swift’s case we got it wrong, and didn’t resolve things quickly enough.
“We are really sorry and have apologised, offering a gesture of goodwill in recognition of the frustration he has experienced.”
Well, it seems that people have been missing out on billions in compensation for delayed flights, as airline companies defer payouts to passengers who have been held up.
This is according to Sky News, who learned that data is showing 3.27 million passengers travelling to and from UK airports each year might have a potential claim on their hands. And the amount of cash floating around is quite something.
After the European Commission introduced the compensation laws a decade ago, an average claim is around £320, which means, according to Sky’s figures, that €1.4bn a year in compensation might be up for grabs for those who have had flights delayed by 3 or more hours. However, it seems that this has only just come to light thanks to landmark court rulings that have established a clear precedent.
Coby Benson, an aviation lawyer with Bott & Co, said: “The intention of the European Commission is that lawyers should never have been involved in this the first place. It was supposed to be a very easy system for passengers to gain compensation themselves when their flights are cancelled or delayed or they have been denied boarding.”
“It’s just unfortunate that the airlines more often than not make it extremely difficult for passengers to claim compensation and put obstacles in their way.”
In a way similar to getting compensation for train journeys, if your flight isn’t delayed by ”extraordinary circumstances” like really bad weather, terrorism and acts of vandalism, you should be able to claim compensation. According to figures, around 1.5% of flights in-and-out of the UK are delayed for longer than three hours.
How To Get A Refund
There’s an app to help you get a refund or compensation for delayed flights, which outlines your rights and whatnot. You can have a look at that by downloading it here. If you want to write a letter of complaint to an airline, then Which!!! have a template you can use.
So, if you’re a business-owner who was missold an interest rate hedging product, you might be hearing from your bank again, as the report said that the “redress must be fair and reasonable”, and that “redress should aim to put customers back in the position they would have been in had the breach of regulatory requirements not occurred.”
However, there’s a problem – this advice is open to interpretation by the banks, and seeing as they’ve got form for really not giving two hoots about their customers, this means as they review each case, they’re inevitably going to do someone over.
Chairman of the Treasury Committee, Andrew Tyrie MP, said: “Many small businesses have been badly hit by the complex terms of the IRHPs offered by their bank. A significant number of those firms who were missold these hedging products feel that, having been ripped off in the first place, they have now been treated unfairly again by the FCA’s IRHP redress scheme.”
“It is far from clear that the FCA’s scheme has delivered fair and reasonable redress to all the businesses affected. The FCA needs to do much more to demonstrate that this process is credible and has not unduly favoured the banks. As part of this work, the FCA should collect the information necessary to establish whether there are systemic failures in the review.”
“This would benefit from independent oversight. It should publish its findings. “Greater transparency is crucial in order to ensure that those SMEs mis-sold these products receive – and are seen to receive – appropriate redress. The Financial Services Act provides for the Treasury to require for this type of work to be done. But hopefully this won’t be necessary.”
With any luck, an independent body will oversee these cases in a bid to work in the favour of the customers, but don’t hold your breath.
A new compensation scheme has been agreed between 11 banks and credit card issuers and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to reimburse customers who were sold card protection policies that were, essentially, useless. This is separate from the ongoing card protection policy claims, as this centres on one policy issuer offering protection that was totally not required.
An estimated two million affected bank customers will be sent a letter in April or May, asking them to vote in favour of the compensation scheme, which could see people receiving up to around £300 each.
The policies in question were offered by a company called Affinion and sold by the banks and credit card firms. The FCA explained that one unnecessary element of the insurance covered losses due to the fraudulent use of a card that had been lost or stolen. “This was unnecessary because the customer’s card issuer was typically responsible for any transactions after the cards were reported as being lost or stolen and, in the period before reporting the matter, customers were only liable for unauthorised transactions in limited circumstances,” the regulator said, adding that “the bank or card issuer usually covered customers for anything over the first £50 if transactions took place before the card was reported missing.”
As a result the policies, which went under the names such as Card Protection, Sentinel, Sentinel Gold, Sentinel Protection, Sentinel Excel and Safe and Secure Plus, were essentially charging customers for protection they already had, and it is this element that is being reimbursed. An average policy cost £25 a year and the compensation will also accrue interest of 8% a year, minus any taxes and any money actually paid out on successful claims, meaning people could get up to £300.
This new scheme follows a similar compensation payout made last year for similar policies offered by CPP, who were fined £10.5m in 2012 by the FCA’s predecessor, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), after using deliberate mis-selling tactics to trick people into thinking they needed the insurance cover.
Tracey McDermott, director of supervision and authorisations at the FCA, said: “We have been encouraged that, working closely with the FCA, a large number of firms have voluntarily come together to create a redress scheme that will provide a fair outcome for customers. ”
The 11 banks and card issuers involved are:
AIB Group (UK) trading as First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland and Allied Irish Bank (GB) in Great Britain
Capital One (Europe)
Northern Bank Limited trading as Danske Bank
Tesco Personal Finance
The Co-operative Bank
The Royal Bank of Scotland.
The scheme will not cover bank customers who had a card insurance policy as part of a packaged bank account.
As you’ll be aware, the chunnel was closed for most of Saturday because of a fire and then it was locked down again on Sunday because of an unrelated electrical fault. Today, there’s only one of the two tunnels open, which means more delays and headaches for passengers.
It is hoped that the Channel Tunnel will be back to full speed tomorrow, but after this weekend, no-one should hold their breath.
The amount of passengers inconvenienced over the weekend are in advance of 12,000, which is a lot of compensation needing to be paid out. On Saturday, Eurostar cancelled 26 of their services.
The cancellations were a result of a lorry which was on fire (or more accurately, it was “”smouldering”, which meant two CO2 detectors went off and everything had to be shut down. Then, once that was put out, “residue smoke” had to be cleared, meaning further delays. Then, when it looked like things were getting sorted, there was a problem with a power supply which meant more hair being torn out in frustration.
So what happens now?
Well, if you’re planning to travel on Eurostar, they’ve said that they’re planning to run a full service, albeit with delays, so you should check-in as normal, but expect to spend some time sat around and tutting.
“As Eurotunnel will not be completely operational Eurostar services may be subject to delays of up to about 30 minutes,” the company said. “If you were scheduled to travel on Saturday or Sunday and wish to change your plans and were impacted by the tunnel closure, you can exchange your ticket free of charge, within the next 60 days to travel anytime within the next 120 days, or apply for a refund.”
If you’re wanting to complain, then there are long waits on the Eurostar telephone services. You can try ringing them - 03432 186186, 9am-5pm Mon-Fri – or, if you prefer, you can email them at email@example.com and include the details of what happened as well as your six-letter booking reference.
Eurostar’s website says that they have a “generous compensation policy” for passengers who have been affected by delays so if all of the above switches you off, they have an online form to help you get your money back.
And now, instead of some hold music, here’s a man being run over by a moped outside London’s St Pancras, live on the telly. Both are fine.
You may have heard, or experienced, the mega delays in London on 27 December that were caused by over-running engineering works over Christmas. London King’s Cross was closed and passengers diverted to Finsbury Park, where they faced crowds, queues and delays lasting hours. However, now East Coast Trains has started responding to requests for delay repay compensation, except their email is so dodgy, most people are wary of responding.
Under the delay repay scheme, delays of over 30 minutes qualify for compensation from the relevant rail operator- exact details of how to apply will depend on the rail company, but for reference, here’s the details for East Coast Trains. Because of the massive number of people affected on 27 December, however, East Coast have decided to send out a blanket email to respond to those seeking compensation.
However, as reported in the Guardian, the email itself is either very poorly, or very cleverly worded such that it sounds like it wouldn’t look amiss coming from an embarrassed Nigerian Price caught short without his wallet.
The email comes from a Michael Ross and says that “as a gesture of goodwill for the disruption and inconvenience to your travel plans, your claim will, on this occasion only, be paid in cash by Bacs transfer.”
The email then asks for your bank account number and sort code to be emailed by return to firstname.lastname@example.org and “your payment will then be made as quickly as possible although, in view of the holiday period, please allow 14 working days for the transfer to be made”.
The email (and Michael Ross’s existence) have been verified, and while this is actually a genuine attempt by East Coast Trains to make amends, no-one should reply to an email with their bank details without thinking very carefully. If you don’t want to send your bank details by email you claim your 50% refund for 27 December the traditional way using East Coast’s online form. This does not require you to send your bank details, but on the downside, you may be sent rail vouchers instead of the cash offered by the phishing-a-like email.
East Coast have apologised again for both the delays and the poor email.
Well, things are about to change on that front. No, delayed and cancelled flights aren’t going to become a thing of the past, but rather, your rights surrounding them. There’s been two Supreme Court decisions against Thomson and Jet2, which means we’ll all have improved rights when it comes to getting compensation.
The Supreme Court ruled on two cases relating to the European Denied Boarding Regulation, which sounds boring, but that’s the thing that sorts your right to compensation if your flight gets cancelled or if it is delayed, and with that, the airlines might get their arses in gear and start running a better service for everyone.
In the case ‘Dawson v Thomson’, Thomson denied owing a certain Mr Dawson (no, not that one) compensation because he had waited more than two years after his flight to make a claim. The airline argued that consumers have a two-year window if they want to claim compensation, however, Mr Dawson pointed out that the law gives six years for claims. The Court of Appeal agreed and Thomson don’t have the right to appeal.
The other case – ‘Huzar v Jet2- Mr Huzar’s flight had been delayed thanks to a technical fault with the aircraft. The law says that airlines don’t have to pay compensation if a delay is caused by “extraordinary circumstances”. You’d think that technical problems were a fairly regular occurrence, but Jet2 claimed that technical difficulties constitute “extraordinary circumstances”. That means they don’t have to pay compo to passengers. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and denied Jet2 the right to appeal.
So now, the law says that travellers have six years to flex their rights in a bid to claim for compensation for a cancellation or delay and there’s not much the airlines can do about it. They might weasel their way out of it somehow, but for now, it is 2-0 to the consumer.
That said, if you’ve but a claim in for some reimbursement, it now might go through, albeit delayed thanks to the airlines now having something of a large backlog of complaints. If you are getting close to six years, then you can send your complaints to the Civil Aviation Authority or the small claims court.
Go get ‘em.
Allegedly, Lloyds Banking Group – who have never been known not to serve themselves first – have been withholding millions of pounds of PPI compensation, thanks to a loophole in the law.
The Financial Ombudsman Service say Lloyds is using an ‘alternative redress’ scheme, which complies with the Financial Conduct Authority’s rules, as a way not to give customers their full payouts.
The alternative redress scheme is an obscure, generalised rule that assumes that customers took out regular premium policies – and that they must be reimbursed for that.
But some customers didn’t take out regular premium policies. They were sold single policies on more than one loan. So Lloyds have been deducting the cost of a cheaper regular policy from the payouts, even though some customers are owed more.
For example, one Halifax customer with 2 loans was offered £2300 PPI compensation. But when she brought the case to the Financial Ombudsman, Lloyds were asked to pay her an extra £1200.
Lloyd’s said yes, it WAS using the alternative redress system, but argued that it had done nothing wrong, saying: “The FCA handbook is very clear that in these specific circumstances, the provider should give redress that puts the customer in the position they would have been in had the customer taken a regular premium policy.’
If you want to watch Lloyd’s squirm on TV, a BBC special about the PPI compensation, ‘Britain’s Biggest Banking Scandal’ is due to air tonight.
A case that has been rumbling for some time has now received judgement in the Court of Appeal. Previously, victims of financial loss as a result of mis-selling or inappropriate advice could take their case to the Financial Ombudsman and then also sue the financial firm allegedly responsible for the loss in civil court. The new judgment, on the back of opposing previous judgments, makes it clear that accepting Ombudsman compensation precludes complainants from later suing on the same matter.
While this might initially sound like a triumph of common sense, consumer groups are decrying this as a blow for consumer rights, given that some victims would use their Ombudsman payout, a process which is free, more streamlined and enables faster payouts, to enable them to fund a civil case. It is conceivable that those who have suffered financial loss at the hands of a shoddy adviser might not have oodles of cash with which to fight a court case.
Currently, the financial ombudsman can award maximum compensation of £150,000 to a customer who has suffered a loss due to issues such as negligence, poor financial advice or mis-selling.
The new ruling concerns the case of Barry Clark, 70, and his wife Julie, 68, of Portsmouth, who were clients of In Focus Asset Management and Tax Solutions. The firm advised them to invest the proceeds of the sale of a family business in a geared traded endowment plan. The product was unsuitable for their needs and ended up costing them losses of £500,000- so the couple complained to the ombudsman.
The ombudsman upheld the complaint and awarded the maximum compensation, which was £100,000 at the time. Mr and Mrs Clark then used the money to issue proceedings in the county court for additional losses.
In her judgment, handed down today, Lady Justice Arden acknowledged the way people were combining the two routes to compensation, but felt it was potentially harmful to consumers. She said: “If the Clarks succeed, a complainant may be able to use an award as a fighting fund for legal proceedings. On the face of it this result would be for consumers’ interests, but that is not necessarily so.
“If they lose court proceedings, it may lead to them losing all that they have gained through the FOS [Financial Ombudsman Scheme]. It may also lead to the development of a claims industry in this field that increases the costs of obtaining financial advice: there are already 210 ombudsmen and many more might be needed if a larger group of complainants can apply.” In 2013, the ombudsman received over 500,000 complaints, half of which were upheld, although this does include endless PPI compensation claims.
While many people would want to avoid the UK turning into as litigious a state as some others around the world, is it right that the Clarks are down £400,000 (and more now, after losing the case at appeal) with no means of further redress? Doesn’t this ruling mean that it will be only those who have pots of spare cash to fund a legal challenge who will be able to get their full compensation?