One fifth of complaints about banks and building societies' current accounts are not being cleared up to customers' satisfaction, a consumer group has reported.
The findings, which come at a time when moves are under way to make it easier for people to switch current accounts and encourage competition, were made following a survey of 2,000 people across the UK in February by Which?
The group found that one quarter (26%) of UK bank customers, equating to 12 million people across the country, have experienced problems in the last 12 months. Of these, two-thirds have made a complaint and 22% of people who did so were not happy with how their issue was resolved.
Common causes for complaint included poor customer service, incorrect charges, difficulty getting through to someone and mistakes showing up on statements. Three in 10 people who did complain said they had to do so more than once before the issue was put right.
Which? said it had found Lloyds TSB to be the bank with the highest proportion of customers saying they had experienced some sort of problem at 30%, followed closely by Lloyds' sister bank Bank of Scotland, as well as the Co-operative Bank. Out of the 12 banks and building societies surveyed, the proportion of customers who had experienced problems tended to be lower among First Direct and Nationwide customers, according to the findings.
Customers who told Which? they had had a problem had not necessarily followed this up with a complaint to their bank or building society. Of the one third of current account customers across the survey who said they had experienced a problem but had not complained, one quarter (24%) did not want to call an expensive phone number to make a complaint and one fifth (19%) said they did not believe their provider could fix the problem.
Some providers said that the findings did not match with their own experience of customer satisfaction levels and suggested this may be due to relatively small sample sizes being used in the Which? research.
The British Bankers' Association (BBA) said that moves are already under way which mean that any problems consumers have will be picked up sooner.
A spokesman for the BBA said: "Banks take complaints handling seriously and are introducing initiatives to improve the service they offer customers such as the introduction of professional qualifications for complaints handling staff. In order to help further improve the service that customers receive the BBA is establishing a Consumer Panel to bring together key consumer advocates and industry figures which will aim to identify any problems consumers are experiencing much sooner."
Efforts are taking place to ramp up competition in the current account sector amid concerns over a lack of people switching their accounts. Changes being introduced from September by the Payments Council should make the switching process much simpler. They mean that incoming payments will automatically be redirected to the new account and the time it takes to fully change accounts will be cut from around 18 days to seven working days.