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Financial abuse claims and the banks duty of care

By April 7, 2016January 29th, 2021For Business

A duty of care from banks to their customers should be enshrined in law to prevent further mis-selling scandals, a consumer watchdog has said.

Adding a legal duty of care would strengthen existing rules.

The panel argued that the legal duty would result in less need for intervention from regulators, prevent further mis-selling such as that seen in the payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal, and speed up the culture of change in banks.

“Under a legal duty of care no bank would, for example, sell a packaged bank account without first checking the customer understood and could benefit from all the elements of the account.

As previously reported the numbers of financial abuse claims are on the rise especially in cases whereby vulnerable adults are subject to theft, usually by persons acting in a position of trust.  As with any action, prevention is better than cure. The question here is- what more can be done to help vulnerable adults?  Common features of these cases are transfers from bank accounts, whether that is online transfers, cash machines withdrawals or counter withdrawals.  With the development of online banking, the old fashioned relationship with a bank has changed.  Banks cannot see who transfers monies and for what purpose.From our experience due to imposed daily withdrawal limits, often monies are withdrawn either online or over the counter at a branch of the bank.  This enables the perpetrator to withdraw large amounts at one time.  Should banks be doing more to stop this?  Some banks have systems in place to safeguard its customers, sadly others don’t.  If a cashier acting for the bank sees a party, acting on behalf of a vulnerable adult, visiting the bank every week and making large withdrawals, which clearly do not align with historic withdrawal patterns, should a cashier take action?  Are they liable if they dont?  This is a question of fact and law.Banks owe a duty of care to its customers in contract amongst others.  Pursuant to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 s13 it is implicit in a contract that the bank will carry out its services with reasonable care and skill.  Is this enough though?  Should the duty of care be fully set out and enshrined in statute.  Should banks be forced to have systems in place to assist in preventing financial abuse of vulnerable adults? In a recent study by the Finances Services Consumer Panel (FSCO) customers thought banks were only interested in winning new business.Suggestions have been made to require statute be set down to prevent further miss-selling scandals and to prevent intermediaries such as the FCA having to be involved.  The general consensus is that banks need to change to put the customer first.  The duty of care should be set out clearly in law.  If the duty of care is further extended to cover financial abuse claims and prevention of the same this could save a lot of victims a lot of expense.

Alison Rocca

Author Alison Rocca

Alison is a solicitor in our Litigation department.

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