The building society will have to repay £8.4 million to 34,000 customers, under orders from the Financial Conduct Authority, which has fined the company £4.1 million – the largest fine ever given to a building society.
Between 1 October 2011 and 31 July 2012, call handlers at YBS “failed to deal properly” with customers in payment difficulties, says the FCA. The investigation found that insufficient training and fragmented guidance meant that call handlers did not consistently probe customers’ circumstances and identify the cause of their problems.
These failures to identify the cause of their problems and their future financial prospects led to significant delays in determining the most appropriate payment solutions. YBS properly viewed repossession as a last resort but failed to recognise that delays in reaching long term payment solutions meant that some customers incurred increased fees and associated interest. YBS has already started to refund these customers.
Tracey McDermott, FCA director of Enforcement and Financial Crime said: “Customers in financial difficulty need to be treated fairly and sensitively. Firms must ensure that they are taking into account the particular circumstances affecting customers who find themselves in difficulty. Firms need to be dealing with these customers proactively, without delays, in order to ensure they are not losing out.
“By allowing cases to drift without agreement, YBS’s actions meant that customers in vulnerable circumstances risked falling into further financial difficulty.”