Which? launches campaign to improve banks

RBS and NatWest came in at the bottom of the table

Updated: 

A campaign for "better banks" has been launched by Which? after it found many major players are failing to match the customer satisfaction levels of their smaller rivals.

Which? said research among more than 20,000 people about products including current accounts and mortgages resulted in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) coming joint bottom at number 30 in a table, with its sister brand NatWest at number 29.

Banking giant Barclays was placed 25th, while Bank of Scotland was at number 26 and HSBC and Lloyds Bank were joint 20th, while newer players like Tesco Bank and Virgin Money and building societies like Skipton and Principality were ranked higher.

First Direct, which is owned by HSBC and frequently tops a range of customer satisfaction surveys, came out top once again in the Which? research.

Metro Bank came in second place, followed by Coventry Building Society. Both Metro Bank and M&S Bank, which came joint fifth, keep branch doors open seven days a week for customers.

The consumer group said a lack of competition means that standards across the industry are not being driven up effectively.

Its We Deserve Better Banks campaign calls for regulators, the Government and industry to work together to ensure banks listen to customers when it comes to the quality of service and culture they expect.

The campaign calls for customers to be given better tools to put them in control of managing their money, such as more text alerts and warnings when they are close to going overdrawn. It also wants to see "unfair" unauthorised overdrafts and the charges they impose tackled.

Consumers can sign the Which? petition at www.which.co.uk/betterbanks.

Which? carried out four surveys between September 2015 and January 2016 to find out how satisfied people are with the current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and mortgages they have with various banks and building societies.

Les Matheson, CEO of personal and business banking, RBS and NatWest said: "We agree that Britain needs better banks and that is why over the last few years we've been challenging the industry to help our customers out, not catch them out and we're proud of how we're making banking simpler and fairer for our customers."

He said the bank has had good customer feedback from its new "reward" current accounts.

Mr Matheson continued: "We've scrapped unfair teaser rates, we offer our best deals to both new and existing customers and our staff are no longer incentivised to sell, meaning they can fully focus on the needs of our customers."

He continued: "Whilst we are disappointed in these results, we are determined to do more and we are working with Which? to support their campaign, including raising awareness and education of products - not just for our customers, but across the banking industry."

A British Bankers' Association (BBA) spokesman said: "The banking industry is pro-competition and actively encourages customers to shop around to get the best deals. In recent years, banks have introduced a series of different ways to help customers keep on top of their money and compare offers in the market.

"Over 1.3 million text alerts from banks are sent to customers each week and the midata tool was launched last year to help consumers compare prices based on data from their actual account use. Switching is easier than ever, and over two million people have already done so in the last two years.

"Nine new banking licences have been created since the financial crisis, with more than 20 applications in the pipeline, giving customers more choice over which bank will best deliver the products and services they need.

"Banks understand the importance of great customer service, and work hard to deliver what their customers rightly expect. Overall, the cost of banking has fallen, whilst customer satisfaction is rising."

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