Rushing between filming and meetings last week, I got into a cab to be greeted by a driver who’d got both PPI and bank charges back after reading guides on this site. He told me he had a very simple question to ask: "Can you believe what the bank tells you?"
In light of the number of scandals, including the PPI scandal – where more than £20 billion was mis-sold, sometimes by deliberately lying and misleading customers, encouraged from the very top – it’s easy to say no.
However, I think the answer these days is a little bit less straightforward.
In a nutshell I would suggest you can trust a bank on a matter of fact, but should be more wary on matters of opinion.
So ask a bank "what is my balance?", "how much does a CHAPS payment cost?", "do the records show I ever had a credit card with you?" – in general you’ll get an answer you should believe.
Of course as with every profession, people make mistakes, so I’m not suggesting it’s infallible. Yet for these type of questions I don’t think that in the current regulatory regime (and even to give some credit to the fact the sector itself has changed) there will be an aim to give you an incorrect answer.
Yet if you ask something subjective, be careful. Bank scripts and structures are still set up to give opinions that benefit them.
Ask "was I mis-sold?" – and while some will play fair, others will still sometimes answer "no", even in lucid knowledge that if you took your case to the Financial Ombudsman, you’d get a "yes".
Equally, when discussing whether a product its flogging is worth it for you, necessary or cheap – like all sales institutions, don’t expect to always get a reply which is solely in your interest.
Am I being too cynical, or not cynical enough? I’d love your views and experiences below.