Breaking through a PPI complaint brick wall


We’ve always said that you don’t have to use a claims company, but there are some reasons you may want to.  You can take a look at the pros and cons of each option in this post.  This time we want to look at a real example of what can happen and why it’s sometimes not as simple as some would like you to believe.

It’s important to stress that we’re not trying to discourage DIY claims because many complaints are straightforward, but some balance is needed.  It sometimes feels like you should feel guilty if you can’t face or don’t have time to do it yourself!

Checking out a supermarket loan

Mr X came to us with a list of companies he wanted us to check for possible PPI.  Among these were a couple of loans from one of the supermarket banking brands.

We checked and found that he had been sold PPI with these loans.  At first he couldn’t remember much about how he’d got the loans or the PPI. He found it quite difficult to explain why he thought the PPI was mis-sold and couldn’t remember at first how he’s applied for the loan. We asked him if perhaps he’s made an application by  ‘phone and then the paperwork had arrived with a courier to his home.  “Wow – that’s it – how did you know?!” .  There’s no magic, that was the usual practice for this particular lender at the time.  This was pretty unusual and the courier would typically wait for the customer to sign the papers before taking them away again.

Mr and Mrs X remembered this as it was an odd experience at the time and they felt they’d been under a lot of time pressure to read the documents with a courier waiting at their front-door.  This, amongst other things, meant that the PPI was possibly mis-sold.

Unexpected response in bagging area.

One of the high street banks actually provided these loans. We submitted a complaint to them as usual, but they later replied that they were not responsible.  They wanted us to contact the supermarket instead and gave us their head office address (not even the supermarket’s banking address).

We knew this was incorrect so we re-submitted and explained.  Weeks go by again. We got a very similar response. In fact they included a copy of their previous letter saying “we’ve already told you”.  No matter – we’ll quickly sort this out on the ‘phone.  After the usual queuing and waiting on hold we had a long conversation with someone who looked up all the details and then said “You need to write to the supermarket…”.  No logic or arguments would work.

We’re still no wiser as to why the bank kept getting it wrong in this case. We’ve dealt with the same type of loans with them before and since without problems.


Please call for assistance…

At this point we contacted the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to check we were taking the correct approach.  After looking into it, they confirmed that the  bank was responsible.

So we raised a complaint with the FOS.  This is not the quickest of processes as they are very busy.  There are also no set timescales, but some weeks later we talked through the case with them and they agreed that they would look at the case themselves and make a decision.  More time passed as they got the file from the bank and then they came back to say they’d changed their mind.  The FOS decided after all that the bank should look at the complaint instead and the bank had apparently agreed.

Frustratingly they gave the bank another eight weeks to do this.  Remember they’ve already had two gos at this; each time taking a few weeks to say “not us mate”. Doesn’t seem very fair does it?  But at least this was now going to be handled as it should have been from the start.  And actually we (or you) have little choice but to agree to what the FOS says.

Eight weeks came and went…no response from the bank.


“We’re sorry, we need to do a re-scan”

So of course the FOS were straight on to the bank and then taking action to make sure that they hadn’t ignored them.

Just kidding.

The Financial Ombudsman Service do not follow up on these things. They expect the customer (or us in this case) to do that and to contact the FOS again if needed.

We raised this with he FOS and they now agreed (again!) to investigate the case themselves.  Only a couple of months wasted and back to where we were.  Weeks pass again………..

The Financial Ombudsman Service gets in touch to say that they are recommending that the bank uphold the complaint.  Fantastic….except that they are giving the bank eight weeks to calculate how much they should pay and to respond.

Actually with a bit more chasing our client received their offer from the bank a month later and the cheque three weeks after that.  This was nearly six months from start to finish despite us moving as quickly as possible and chasing at every turn.  We think the complaint itself in this case was relatively simple and suspect the decision to uphold did not minutes not hours.

Shopping tips

This is a relatively extreme case where things went wrong, but with high numbers of cases, large teams of contract staff and bank bureaucracy, issues are far from uncommon.

  • Get clued up on the process, where to complain and how
  • Keep copies of everything and a log of any calls
  • Consider posting with”signed for” services so you’re when your letter arrived
  • Set reminders for yourself of deadlines
  • Don’t let them put you off – they do make mistakes
  • The Financial Ombudsman Service is not perfect but the staff will do their best to help you figure things out
  • The FOS will help if things go wrong, but they give the banks a lot of rope and you’ll still need to take charge
  • Don’t expect things to get fixed quickly if a lender makes a mistake.  Occasionally they apologise, and some have a customer care team.  But it’s extremely rare that things go any faster.
  • Stick with it – once you’ve started, don’t delay important steps as this may complicate things and in extreme cases you could miss out altogether.

Although problems are frustrating for us and our clients alike, we should recognise that most lenders are dealing with huge numbers of complaints and can only use a sausage machine approach.


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Red hair in front of wall: and Wall –

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