Halifax is the UK's biggest provider of residential mortgages. Since 2009 it has been part of The Lloyds Banking Group, the country's largest financial group. The last few years have been difficult for the lender as it suffered extensively as a result in the housing market slump and accumulated a significant amount of ‘toxic debt' the lender has also had to cope with a sharp increase in complaints as a result of the mis-selling of loan protection insurance.
Statistics revealed by The Financial Services Authority show complaints regarding The Lloyds Group, and including Halifax, rose by 14% in the second half of 2010. The rise takes the total number of complaints received regarding the lender to 330,000 in this period. The bank blamed the increase in complaints on the rise in the number of customers complaining about the sale of payment protection insurance with this type of complaint rising by 64% to 156,000. It added the bank was taking steps to reduce this figure in the future. It was revealed that 40,000 branch and call centre staff, including some Halifax employees, had been trained to effectively handle complaints and the lender was now resolving up to 90% of complaints internally. It is also claimed that customer's complaints are more likely to be upheld by the bank itself than by The Financial Ombudsman Service.
While The Lloyds group is clearly making active strides to try and reduce the number of complaints it is unlikely the number of payment protection claims will drop in the near future. It is estimates that the Lloyds Group, including Halifax and Bank of Scotland, has sold between 3.5 – 4 million PPI policies. The group sells PPI alongside mortgages, loans and credit cards and has received complaints regarding all three types of the insurance. It is difficult to estimate how many of the total policies sold may have been mis-sold, but consumer issue advocate Which? claims as many as 2 million policies may have been mis-sold across the payment protection industry.
In addition to improving its internal complaints procedures, Lloyds has also allocated funds to deal with future mis-selling claims. Including The Bank of Scotland and Halifax the figure is set at £3.2 billion. The decision has come at a cost with the Lloyds Group reporting loss of £3.47 billion as a direct result.
In response to the decision by The Lloyds Group and other lenders, including HSBC and Barclays, to allocate funds and resolve customer's complaints internally, The Financial Ombudsman Service has announced it will allow major lenders an extension of the usual investigation period. Under existing rules, lenders must usually investigate a complaint and issue a decision within 8 weeks, but will now be allowed up to 16 weeks in certain circumstances. The decision has also been made due to the significant backlog of complaints that Halifax and most other lenders are currently dealing with. The backlogs have occurred, by and large, because of the decision by most banks to place Payment Protection claims on hold pending the recent judicial review.
The judicial review revolved around the legality of new Financial Service Authority guidelines to protect customers from being mis-sold PPI policies. The guidelines will force lenders to fully explain terms and make it clear that policies are optional. Lenders were unhappy with the new rules; however, as they felt they would force them to examine old cases against new guidelines. The FSA disputed this idea, though, claiming the rules had always been there, but they were seeking to clarify them. The High Court returned its verdict in August finding in favour of the FSA. The ruling is seen as just another positive step to finally settling the PPI issue.
If you believe you have been mis-sold a payment protection policy by Halifax or any other lender you can start your claim by calling us today on 0207 471 2000. There is no limit to the number of complaints you can make and you can even make a complaint if your loan or mortgage is already paid off. PPI policies can cost up to 56% of the core loan value, so, if your policy was mis-sold, you really could be owed thousands of pounds.