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The money trap: Your Comments

Thank you for sending us your comments on Panorama: The Money Trap.

The debate is now closed but a selection of your views are published below.

Piles of one pound coins

Panorama: The Money Trap was shown on BBC One on July 2 2006.

Alec, Aberdeen

The documentary about the royal bank of scotland was ok...What was not mentioned was why the whistleblower blew the whistle...The reason mentioned by her was not the real reason for blowing the whistle. So...What is incomplete for me is the reason why she blew the whistle...I look forward to hearing from you...

Carol Kirby, UK

A disappointing programme- biased, insensitive to the families involved, taking no account of the standard lending policies of all the UK banks( all victims maintained a paymernt every month therefore had a "good" credit rating). Bottome line - just because the banks offered the credit the customer did not have to spend it!

Ken George, London

I watched last night's programme and kept wondering: "Where's the story? When are they going to reveal something startling?"

We were told: "It is a very very sophisticated, tailored, tested marketing strategy and sales pitch to a public that has very little knowledge of what is going on."

Frankly, I saw nothing "very, very sophisticated" about offering more credit to people who appeared to continually live at their credit limits - and them accepting it.

Whatever happened to personal responsibility for living beyond one's means? While a couple of passing references to such personal responsibility were made in the programme, the overriding message was that it was all the fault of the big, bad banks.

Come on, Panorama. Grow up! This insipid programme was not worthy of Panorama's illustrious history.

If this was the worst you could dig up about the banks, then they'll all be laughing heartily this morning over how lightly they escaped.

What's lined up for next week's report? Revelations of how people who are sent cheque books actually use them to write out cheques? Wow!

Charles, UK

Whilst I find the stories illustrated here to be harrowing and upsetting to the families involved, I also believe that although the banks are quick to make profit from people, that people must take some responsibility for their actions. Getting into debt is obviously far easier when the banks are happy to lend money. Today's society reflects a Have-it-now mentality at any cost. I for one have only a mortgage, and everything else is bought when I have scrimped and saved. I would not dream of going into debt just to buy a new car, the latest electronic gadget. Credit cards and Loans only make it easier for people to spend and worry about paying it off later. It's time for some of the blame to be laid squarely at the person signing the credit card/loan application and who then spends spends spends. The Banks may offer money, but it's the individual that makes the decision to take it. I have a lot of sympathy for those in debt just to make ends meet, but the society we liv! e in pushes people to buy things they don't need in order have standing in their friendship or social circles. Bad Banks maybe, but people need to stop shirking their own responsibilities.

John Brand, London

The way I deal with constant adverts from my bank/creadit cards is to phone and tell then for no advert/promo's, this used to be to save paper but now it is to not have their constant asking if you want more money.

Chris, Watford

I watched the Panaroma epsiode with great interest as I have many issues with banks at the moment, but after hearing what your banking "whistleblower" had to say, I was left very sceptical regarding many of the points raised.

I got into debt a few years ago as I had lost my job, and for many years struggled to repay these debts until I gained current employment. But in this time I was never offered or encouraged to get more credit for the banks I was with.

Now, all my debts are cleared, and still I am not offered a thing from my bank. I am 35 & am only allowed a bank account aimed at a school leaver & I have only one credit card with an APR of stupid proportions.

In my experience once you are in debt & even when you are clear most banks & credit companies won;t touch you with a barge pole, contrary to what was reported on the Panarama programme. If what was said was true I should have credit card companies banging my door down to offer my money, but this just isnlt the case.

Michael Brodie, Oakham, Rutland

The programme was tilted against the credit card suppliers and practically nothing about the iresponsibility of the borowers. The school caretaker said that he bought fuel for his car as he could afford when he paid cash but filled up when he used his card. How far did this attitude pervade? The card issuers should oversee the number of cards issued to one person and watch the size of the overdraft. I find the card a convenience and I do not need to carry large sums of money when going shopping.

Diane Bowes, Darlington

well done bbc for bringing this problem into our homes,this is wide spread and causing problems for a great many people,surley the goverment must be able to do something about this,for such a lot of people it is hard enough to manage finances on a day to day basis,bank charges on top of your normal expenses hits people very hard,someone has to put a stop to this before more family's have to suffer the way the family's on your show on sunday are suffering.

Mel Low, London

Excellent program as usual but I am so sick of all these people whinging about banks causing all these problems and failing to recognise that they may be to blame for their own problems. The reality is that banks exist to make a profit and customers are the means of doing that. People need to take responsibility for what they are getting themselves into when they apply for credit cards. You always hear people say that you shouldn't spend more than you earn and it has always baffled me that anyone needs to be told this but none of the people in your story seemed to have any idea of this concept. I've had credit cards since I was 18, in university and working part time and have never had any problems. 10 years later, I now have a charge card which has no spending limit but this is no problem I use credit responsibly (in fact I use is to minimise the interest on my mortgage). People need to stand up and take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming other peop! le (ie the banks) for their problems.

Michael Zeffertt ACIB, Portsmouth

As an ex- banker I too think the high street banks stink. However we are all supposed to be grown-up people capable of making our own decisions sensibly. It is always easy to blame others for your own stupidity. Any suggestion that banks must supervise customers more is a suggestion in favour of the nanny state being privatised. Clearly banking law needs to be enacted whereby irresponsible lending such as described in the programme becomes an offence and that the guidelines on this be clear and unequivocal. Of course such a law would act to limit the banks' exorbitant profits and hence the return of taxation on those profits would then impact negatively on the whole community.

AV, Bexleyheath

Banks are out of control. I receive at least 6 unsolicited pre-approved loan or cedit card offers per week. Most people are either financially illiterate or plain stupid. The Goverment needs to regulate this actvity.

Mark, Isle of Wight

I thought this programme was excellent.

We live in troubling times, and with cost of debt about to rise and people's disposable incomes shrinking from petrol, energy, mortgages and tax hikes, there is a high probability of much worse to come.

We live in a culture of 'keeping up with the Jones', and it is no wonder that there is a % of people who can't resist the offers and sales patter from the Banks and their slick marketing methods. Just like many of forms of addiction, once you start down the road to debt its hard to find a way out.

I hope that new codes of practice are established that will allow legal action to be taken when Banks take advantage of the weakness of people and their circumstances.

Neil Robinson, Hartlepool

Not only brilliant, but a very scary and thought provoking subject covered by the team. It further emphasised just how much of a Knife edge this country is on in respect of personal debt, the economy, and the tragic & devasting outcomes that are only to apparant, and will continue to happen until the Corporate Greed mentality of the businesses in this country is brought to heel. However, the people themselves must take responsibility for their actions, and in a 'Must have' society, people have got to start and learn to say 'No' more often.

G Craven, Hull

The programme focuses on how much money the indiviuals have been granted but never on what the money was spent on, or even how it was wasted. This would not really give you a programme to sensationalise. What would individuals do if they cannot get their hands on the credit? The Government also needs to take a certain amount of responsibility and should be reported on because everyone is facing increasing bills, council tax, water, electric & gas yet payrises are kept very low. Do individuals resort to credit cards because of the increasing prices/bills, I expect so.

Roger Fuller, Surbiton, United Kingdom

Is there any plan to involve the Government in the need to clamp down on the Banks' practice of encouraging people to apply for Credit cards which they do not need, nor have any idea how to manage?

Alistair Anderson, Tring

If your whistle blower was being honest and is what she claims to be she would know that a bank's most important customers are not, as she claimed, those with the largest indebtedness. Your programme went on to prove this when it reported that the RBS had entirely written off the debt in one of your case histories.

No. My only relationship with any bank has been as a customer over a period of 46 years. But unlike your whistle blower I know that a high street bank's most valuable customers are those that habitually operate current accounts with very high average balances or have large deposits in their savings accounts. These people's money is loaned to others but without it no bank will make a penny profit. And when a debt has to be written off those that suffer are either those of us with private or company pensions (because there will not be a pension plan in the country that has not got money invested in the shares of all of the major high street banks) or those with savings accounts (who will receive lower interest to allow the bank to write off debts).

While one cannot but feel very sympathetic to the widows of the very small number of debtors that have committed suicide, it is worth remembering who in the end carry the can for those who borrow too much - those who do not.

J Barrett, Lydney Gloucestershire

There are many vulnerable people who do not read the small print and believe they can manage. The media campaigns are all very attractive and you don't realise you;re getting into debt. At to that with redundancy, sickness or other problems and your income reduces and it really piles up very quickly. The charges are huge and payback is extremely difficult. The stress factor on families is enormous. I feel very sad that it ended in people's suicide. I comtemplated it in the last recession and after two years in depression climbed out of it.

The banks need to be controlled and serve its customers better than this. We only deal in cash now. Well done for tackling this - it's huge.

Steve Fleming, Battle

Week in week out journalists take a pop at banks without a care for the staff who have to work for these organisations. Many staff try very hard to really help customers knowing that at any time their job could be transferred to India so that greater profits can be made.

Both my wife and I work in banking and get really fed up with the media taking a one sided view. If more regulations were introduced more jobs would go simple as that! Real stories about banking should be about the staff not individuals who cannot make take responsibility for their actions and be honest and truthful with their family.

This was trash journalism and really cheap and I am disgusted that the BBC went ahead and aired it.

A, Isle of Wight

Customers are vulnerable while they still possess the mindset that the banks will only lend to those who go cap in hand. The truth is we are all lucky to escape without a loan whenever we walk in to cash a cheque.

Derren, Nottingham

It's all very well to say 'it's the reponsibility of the consumer' but peoples circumstances change sometimes and their income halves, they become ill, lose their job etc etc. When you have the threat of someone coming to take all you have worked for credit becomes an easy option to pay now and hope for the best later - keeping the wolf from the door.

A, South Wales

What I find ridiculous is the different interest rates offered for loans depending on your credit rating. The people who can least afford to pay back the money (bad credit rating) end up paying extortionate rates. My bank refused me a loan at their rate of 9.9 % but referred me to another bank which then charged 25.9 %. So, a 7800 loan actually cost 26000.

Charles, Waterlooville

Very good prog. but I was amazed you never asked the spouses what they were doing while their husbands were piling up all this debt. If a chap is spending twice his takehome pay EVERY month on extras how come the wives showed no concern. Perhaps Sally ought to go back and ask them.

Confidential, Essex

I work in one of UKs leading banks. I work in one of the branches there. I will agree in saying that there is a lot of pressure everyone has in branches to sell credit products. Cashiers are targeted on how many leads they can provide for credit business. Banking advisors on how many credit cards they can sell and sell loan and insurance on them. The job is not about giving good customer service but about how much you can sell to the customer. Getting Savings Account leads is NO GOOD.... We are not encouraged to generate those. Banking advisors are not encouraged to see pure savings accounts. They are only encouraged to see savings in which they can cross sell credit. When it comes to everyones targets, no one is targeted on savings accounts as they are WALK ins.... I feel stressed out because of my job. I joined the bank thinking that i will be required to give good customer service not just sell sell and sell credit products.

Ann Marie Smith, Paisley

The solution is simple - restrict individuals to 1 credit card per lender; minimum repayment of 25% and fine the banks for irresponsible lending decisions. Also the public should start using credit unions more. In other words, less greed all round.

J Carpenter, Cheltenham

Did not the families of those who built up huge credit card balances notice the goodies coming through the front door/holidays etc!! One might as well criticise a luxury goods store for putting on display in their window highly priced/tempting goods. At the end of the day theses people just purchased goods and services they could not afford.

M, Somerset

In response to some of the other comments posted - it is true that the programme was very biased against the banks, but how could it not be if the banks refuse to appear on film to put their side of the argument?

Many here have pointed out that every individual has responsibility for their own actions - this is also true, and indeed very easy if you have enough money to make ends meet. But many people do not and have little choice but to go overdrawn each month to be able to afford to eat.

I speak as someone who has both been in debt and who now works for one of the big high street banks - one that got a fairly prominent mention in the programme.

As bank employees, we have very high targets of sales that must be achieved each week, and these targets increase year on year. It is true that we are targeted on all products sold: current accounts, packaged accounts, loans, savings, mortgages, credit cards, insurance, etc - but the focus is very definitely on lending. If a branch doesn't make its savings target in any given week there is just the "try harder next week" attitude. If the branch doesn't make its lending target, the branch manager is called into a meeting on friday afternoon for an absolute grilling.

Every customer interacted wuith is viewed as an opportunity to sell something, staff are given specific sales dialogue to use, the computers produce screen messages designed to prompt the staff member into a particular line of dialogue.

I think most people who watched the programme are intelligent enough to already know what the banks are like, so perhaps the programme didn't come up with anything "new". However, on occasion it is valuable to go over old ground as a reminder, so we don't become complacent.

As an employee of a high street bank, I saw much in the programme that rang very true, and the only way that the banks will ever change for the better is if they are ordered to by law (unlikely) or if they are hit where it hurts - their profit margin. This will not occur unless the general public - the banks' customers - start voting with their feet and leave the banks with immoral sales practices.


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