Deaf news: ‘Banks face threat of massive payouts to deaf customers’ says The Times

Posted on February 21, 2012

If, like many deafies, you’ve ever struggled to deal with your bank because they expect you to phone them to deal with a problem, or have faced unhelpful assistance in one of their branches, you’ll welcome today’s double-page story in today’s Times by Laura Whateley, which claims that UK banks could face huge compensation payouts for failing their deaf customers. (there is now a full transcript on the Action on Hearing Loss website)

According to the paper’s investigation, banks are “routinely discriminating against customers with hearing loss by failing to proivide equal access to services.” The banks, Whateley says, have an attitude of “indifference to their [customers’] hearing loss” and too often still insist that “security measures are carried out by phone.”

As well as these problems, the article says that deaf readers of The Times have reported “broken hearing aid loop systems, poorly trained and rude staff, a lack of understanding about how text phones work and an over-reliance on spoken answers to security questions.”

Online messages deaf customers send are often not replied to, and deaf customers have been stranded abroad when their banks blocked their card, because they could not call the bank (as a hearing person would) to resolve the problem.

In one incident, Jill Hipson, a deaf customer of Barclays, was humilated when she tried to pay for a new car. Despite warning her bank that she was going to make a large transaction, the bank refused to process the payment unless she authorised it over the phone, and would not allow her husband (who was with her) to authorise it on her behalf. In the end the garage owner was forced to drive her to her nearest branch so that she could authorise it in person.

In a comment piece titled ‘Hi-tech fix will work for both parties’, solicitor Chris Fry points out that failing to implement reasonable adjustments “can result in payments of compensation of between £1500 and £30,000” under the equality act for “injury to feelings” and that Jill Hipson’s case must have been “horrifically embarrassing.” As a solution, he advocates using “joined up technology” to deal with these problems, such as “an “app” designed to facilitate secure transactions for people with hearing impairments.”

Meanwhile, research from Action on Hearing Loss accompanying the story shows that half of deaf people are unhappy with the service they recieve from banks.

Full transcript of The Times article here on the Action on Hearing Loss website.

By Charlie Swinbourne (Editor)

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