In recent days, two examples of how hard it can be for consumers to reach satisfactory conclusions with insurers or banks when things go wrong have come to light.
The power, and the money, sits on one side of the table and customers can seem supplicants whose rights are regarded as secondary.
An unpublished Department of Finance report has found that insurance companies engaged in “sharp practices” after storms Ophelia and Emma. Policyholders were short-changed through the imposition of “cash payments” and “retention payments” — they did not get the full compensation they had paid for. Minister of state Michael D’Arcy has said he is working on proposals to stamp out this behaviour.
A second example came when financial services and pensions ombudsman Ger Deering reported that a couple whose lender became obstructive after they fell into arrears were awarded €90,000. This was one of a number of legally binding decisions made by the watchdog. The ombudsman said the couple had tried to engage with their lender, who put up obstacles, which included appointing a receiver to their property.
A person caught in a David-and-Goliath bind may feel powerless, but there are options, though the lack of real, focussed action on the tracker mortgages scandal remains disheartening.
By using these options more often, we can change the banks-know-best culture that for far too long has isolated vulnerable consumers.