If you have a complaint about a financial business that provides banking and payment services – such as a bank, building society or payment transfer company – we can help.
How we handle complaints about banking and payments
We see a variety of complaints about banking and payment services, for example current accounts or regular payments like direct debits, or where there’s been an IT problem that has meant customers can’t access their accounts. We look at the facts and circumstances of each individual complaint. We listen impartially to both you and the financial business when deciding what’s fair and reasonable in the circumstances.
Once we’ve considered everything, we’ll set out our findings, explaining whether we think the business has treated you fairly. If we think the business has treated you unfairly, we’ll set out what we think needs to be done to put things right.
Complaints we see
We can help with a wide range of problems about bank accounts including issues in opening the account, administrative problems and delays, charges and account closures.
Startup company complains about delays to opening bank account
Company A was a startup company needing to open a business current account. The bank it approached agreed to open 1 and the directors visited a branch to set it up. After their visit, there followed a series of delays. The directors had to visit the branch 3 more times, and spent many hours on the phone chasing things up.
The bank account was eventually opened but it took another month before the directors received online access.
The directors complained to us about the delays.
The bank said that, as the company was newly formed, there were more procedures to be followed and that took time. It pointed out that it did not commit to any deadline to open the account.
What we said
We acknowledged that there was no firm deadline binding the bank in the time it took to set up the account. However, the bank knew the urgency for Company A and the directors had made clear to the bank the consequences of any delay.
Our investigation showed that the delay was due to administrative failures by the bank. So, we decided the bank was responsible for any loss the company had suffered as a result.
Company A said that without an account they couldn't start their operations. They said that they’d had to engage external consultants to rework their business plan and that cost them £1,500. They provided us with evidence which demonstrated these consultants had been needed to mitigate the effects of the delay. So, we said the bank should reimburse that cost of £1,500 to the company, and pay a further £500 for the inconvenience this matter had caused.
Company complains they hadn't received information requests from their bank
Company B’s bank wrote to them saying that it would be conducting an internal review of their current account. 2 weeks later, the bank wrote again asking that they provide certain information. The bank said that this information should be provided within 90 days to avoid account closure.
After sending 2 further reminders, the bank blocked Company B’s account at the end of the 90 days. It said that this was because the requested information hadn’t been provided.
Company B contacted the bank the next day and said that it had never received the information requests. The bank unblocked the account and asked that they provide the information within the next 30 days.
However, the bank closed the account at the end of the 30 days, stating that it still had not received the requested information.
Company B complained to us. They said that they had provided the information within the specified timeframe. They were also unhappy with the length of time it took the bank to return their balance.
What we said
We said that the bank was entitled to carry out its internal review. It gave adequate time to Company B to provide the information. Though Company B said that it did not receive the initial requests, we found that there was sufficient evidence demonstrating that it ought to have received them. We also believed the bank had acted fairly in agreeing to provide additional time to Company B. Finally, though Company B said that it had provided all the requested information, we found that it had only partially complied with the request.
With regard to the period to return their funds, we noticed that there was a small delay. However, the bank had acknowledged this and paid interest up to the date of payment together with £200 for the inconvenience caused to the business. We concluded that this was a fair outcome.
Most bank transactions are completed successfully but sometimes things go wrong, and you may dispute having made or authorised a transaction. If you can't settle the matter directly with your bank, we can take an independent look.
A company complains about a bank's response to a disputed transaction
The board of directors of Company C decided that its finance director should leave the company following suspicions of a misappropriation of funds. The company contacted its bank to let it know that the finance director should be removed from the mandate immediately. The company also informed the bank of its serious concerns about the director. The bank confirmed that it had changed the mandate as requested.
However, the company later found out that the director had fraudulently transferred funds from the company’s account to his personal account after he should have been removed from the mandate.
The company complained to the bank. The bank said that the change to the mandate did not affect telephone banking. This meant that the director had been able to make transfers using the telephone banking facility.
The bank pointed out that the mandate form specified that the change would not affect telephone banking. The bank said that, because the director was authorised to make payments through telephone banking from the company’s account, it was unable to reimburse the company.
What we said
We noted that, when it advised the bank that the finance director was dismissed due to concerns of financial impropriety and gave instructions to vary the mandate, the company was under the impression that it had taken adequate steps to prevent any further misappropriation.
Though the mandate form specified that the change would not affect telephone banking, this wasn’t prominent. We considered that the company made it clear to the bank the reason for the removal of the director’s mandate and so, if there was a risk that the director would still be able to withdraw funds through telephone banking, this should have been brought to the company's attention. Had it been raised, the company would have asked for the director’s access to telephone banking to be removed.
Furthermore, the bank was clearly put on notice that the director was dismissed from the company due to concerns of fraud. So the bank should have taken steps to mitigate this risk by blocking the director making transfers through any payment channel.
We considered whether the company could have done anything to prevent the transfer or whether there was any failure on its part that contributed to its loss but concluded this wasn't the case.
We concluded that Company C lost as a result of the failure by the bank and therefore asked it to reimburse to the company the money the director had transferred from the point when it was put on notice.
Company complains after falling victim to a scam
The accountant of Company D received an email from the company’s director asking him to pay one of the company’s suppliers. The supplier was a known supplier but the payment was to be made to a different account than usual. This meant the accountant had to set up a new payee.
The accountant was authorised to set up and make payments to a new payee. However, the company’s internal procedure was that he should call the director and confirm the payment details before proceeding.
On this occasion the director was on holiday and not contactable. But because the email said that the payment needed to be made urgently, and it had clearly come from the director’s email address, the accountant went ahead and made the payment.
Upon the director’s return, it was discovered that he hadn’t sent the email. Rather, the company’s email server had been infiltrated and a fraudster had created a fake supplier invoice.
Company D contacted its bank and said that this was an unauthorised payment and therefore it should reimburse the amount. However, the bank said that the accountant was authorised to make the payment and it had legitimately followed the accountant’s instructions. So it declined to reimburse the amount.
What we said
We accepted that the accountant was authorised to make the payment on behalf of Company D and he had carried out all the steps necessary. As such, the payment was authorised by Company D even though the accountant had been tricked into doing it.
The bank was following Company D’s instructions in transferring the money to the requested account. However, as well as its obligation to allow a customer access to their funds and operate the account in accordance with the customer’s mandate, the bank also has an obligation to keep the account safe and to provide protection against fraud. And there are some situations where we might expect a bank to question a transaction if it is particularly unusual for that customer.
On this occasion, Company D was being invoiced for a one-off payment of a small amount, and around the time of the payment there were many genuine transactions of a similar nature to the same supplier, including some for much larger sums. We thought there was nothing on its own about the payment that ought to have alerted the bank to look further into what was going on.
Further we noted that the bank acted swiftly and contacted the receiving bank as soon as it was notified of the scam. However, by that time the money had already left the scammer’s account and there was nothing more Company D’s bank could reasonably have done to recover the funds.
We concluded that, whilst Company D had been an unfortunate victim of a scam, it wasn’t fair to ask the bank to refund the money.
Merchant card services
These complaints relate to where a business takes payment by card and something has gone wrong. We typically see complaints relating to one of the following:
- Chargebacks – where the merchant acquirer claws back a payment after a cardholder has (successfully) raised a dispute.
- Withholding of funds – where the merchant acquirer won’t release money to the merchant.
- Complaints about the merchant acquiring agreement – including what was agreed, how long for, and charges.
- Hire and operation of the card reader and other equipment.
- Data protection and compliance fees.
How to complain
Bringing a complaint to us is straightforward and won’t cost you anything. Find out more about our process and making a complaint to us.
How long it takes
Read more about when you can expect to hear from us once we’ve started to investigate your complaint.