9th November 2018 Ascension Team

MPs: Are vulnerable bank customers being treated fairly?

Source: BBC

The loss of bank branches is one issue affecting vulnerable customers
A poster saying that a branch of Halifax has closed

A committee of MPs is to examine whether vulnerable consumers are being treated fairly by banks and service providers.

Among other things the Treasury Committee will look at what banks are doing to stop financial exclusion.

It will also examine whether some vulnerable people are being overcharged for travel insurance.

Citizens Advice has claimed that people are losing as much as £877 a year each, because they are loyal customers.

As a result, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are already looking at whether some people are being over-charged for financial products.

“With customers expected to take more responsibility for their financial planning and resilience, bank branches closing, and the number of free-to-use ATMs falling, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for vulnerable customers to access certain financial services,” said Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee.

The enquiry will also consider:

  • how financial firms define “vulnerability”
  • whether firms should have to have a legal duty of care to their customers
  • which customers suffer most when a bank branch closes
  • how Post Offices are filling the gap after a bank branch closure

Tom Selby, a senior analyst with the investment platform AJ Bell, said there was no easy answer to improve the situation.

“Although there are some customers who may more obviously be vulnerable, such as those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, anyone can potentially become vulnerable at any time.

“Furthermore, it is not always obvious when someone is vulnerable. Many people suffer for long periods with debilitating depression, for example, without even their closest family knowing,” he said.

 

The Fair By Design Fund is committed to tackling the problems of financial exclusion that vulnerable, low income customers face, as illustrated in this report. FBD is seeking to invest in scalable FinTechs and other services that help low income families access the same resources as those that are better off, with the goal of eradicating the ‘Poverty Premium’ by 2023.

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