Financial services fail to treat over 65s with dignity

Of all the complaints brought to the FOS last year, 24% were from people aged 65 or over, of which 22% related to payment protection insurance, 7% mortgages and 6% buildings and contents.

In its newsletter the FOS said: “Too often we hear stories at Age UK about providers assuming that someone is mentally incapable simply because they have a hearing difficulty or, in one case, refusing to believe an older customer who complained about an unauthorised withdrawal simply because of her age.”

Although dementia is an increasing problem, incapacity is not an inevitable consequence of age but the FOS said it is often the case that older people are talked down to or if a friend or relative is with them they are cut out of the decision making process.

It said: “This brings challenges for all service providers but there is useful guidance in relation to the Mental Capacity Act and good practice to learn from.”

The ombudsman has been working with AGE UK, the British Bankers Association, the Office of the Public Guardian and the Building Societies Association to develop guidance for a consistent approach by financial services providers to policy and process in support of third party mandate holders.

Age UK believes that many of the problems that older people face when using financial services could be mitigated by some simple, inexpensive measures for example, better training, alternative ways for customers to access their money and banking services that are designed with older people in mind.

A BSA spokeswoman said: "Building societies and other mutual lenders and deposit takers are committed to treating customers fairly regardless of their age. This dedication is one of the reasons why they play such an integral role in their local communities and why they have been rated higher than other financial service providers on factors such as customer value and family recommendation.

"Using a tailored approach to business, having specific local knowledge and avoiding the 'computer says no' attitude enables mutuals to reach out to those who may have encountered difficulties applying for a mortgage for example, in the past."

Jason Berry, head of key accounts at uinsure, said: "More than any other age profile older people benefit most from face to face advice and this is particularly true when taking out home insurance. Of the 6% of complaints which related specifically to buildings and contents insurance many will be either older people who are not internet savvy but have purchased inadequate insurance online via comparison sites or they are policyholders who have been mis-sold their insurance by an underprepared broker who has not invested enough time gaining sufficient criteria knowledge."

Berry said in both these instances it's only at the point of claim when the unfit policy is established and by then its too late to help the customer.