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Why should I be surprised by openness and efficiency from a bank?

It was when I saw the legend John Cleese advertising a PPI claims company that I lost it.

I bet I’m not the only one, but for years I have been barraged by text, by email, by advert – you name it – from aggressive companies telling me I can claim back PPI from my bank.

Not long ago, lawyers used to be insulted when they were called ‘Ambulance Chasers’ but now it seems there is no shame in being a parasite who circles around financial disaster, picking off victims.

But I got them all back and here’s how. Bear with me.

The reason I have ignored the ghouls for so long was that I genuinely could not remember whether or not I had PPI attached to a modest bank loan I took out in the early 1990s.  I did so when I was skint at the beginning of my career and needed a car - paradoxically in order to get to work.

All records of it had gone on the fire years ago as I had paid it off without giving it a second thought and the Ford Escort had long ago been recycled into a fridge. 

But when I saw one of my comic heroes advertising a PPI claims company on the telly, I finally snapped.

I telephoned – yes, telephoned - the Financial Ombudsman Service and spoke to a perfectly splendid lady whose knowledge of these matters was unimpeachable.

I downloaded a set of forms and filled them out to the best of my recollection, even about where I lived at the time, never mind how much I had borrowed or if I had, unknowingly, taken out PPI. I posted my forms to RBS - owner of NatWest - with whom, for reasons of sheer laziness, I have been banking since I was 15.

My guardian at the FOS also elevated the complaint to RBS on my behalf and told me straight that given there were gaps in my recollection – even whether or not I had actually taken out PPI - and no paper-based evidence, I did not have the greatest of chances.

Well, I said, that’s fine, at least I’ve tried and I can shake off all these people who keep chasing me to claim for their benefit. My guardian gave a knowing chuckle.

Yet, knock me down with a dusty chequebook, I get a reply almost by return of post from RBS saying my claim has been successful. They found the details of my loan from 1993 and offered to ‘put me back in the position I would have been in now had I not taken out PPI’.

The actual premiums were less than £200. The interest payable going back to 1993 was more than £600. The offer was £805. 

Impressed, I accepted immediately with a feeling not unlike finding a tenner in some trousers in the wash-basket – only more so. It was paid in days meaning the whole thing from claim to settlement was about two weeks.

My, my. Openness, transparency and honesty from a bank. 

We have become so cynical about the behaviour of banks in the last decade that I cannot think of another industry where the customers are even more cynical about the banks, than the banks are about their customers.

Why should I feel like I have had a windfall when it was my money in the first place? And no need whatsoever for me to let a PPI claims form take a third of the money. 

This is not the case with Building Societies – those who remain mutual organisations like Family Building Society. Straightforwardness and openness is their business. Always has been. Always will be.

Steve McDowell

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily shared by the Family Building Society.

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