The UK financial services watchdog has fined state-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland and its NatWest subsidiary a total of £2.8 million for "multiple failings" in the way they handled customer complaints.
The Financial Services Authority said that the retail banks responded "inadequately" to more than half of the complaints that they received, which resulted in delays, shoddy investigations and inadequate explanations to customers.
The organisations had also failed to provide staff with adequate training and guidance on how to investigate gripes properly and managers did not monitor their work adequately, it added.
Margaret Cole, the FSA’s managing director of enforcement and financial crime, said: "We expect firms to treat customers fairly and that consumers can be confident that their complaints will be dealt with properly. The failure of these two high street banks to deal adequately with complaints put consumers at unacceptable risk and the fine of £2.8 million reflects this."
She added that RBS and NatWest had co-operated fully with the investigation and their behaviour had been neither "deliberate or reckless" and they had not "intentionally profited" from their mistakes. They have both agreed to make significant changes to the complaints handling procedures.
The poor performance of the banks’ staff first came to light in the autumn of 2009 when the FSA undertook a probe into the way that all of the UK’s main banks had been dealing with customer complaints.