A BBC documentary about debt-related suicides has triggered an investigation by the Banking Code Standards Board into the Royal Bank of Scotland’s banking practices.
The Panorama programme, broadcast on 2 July and produced by Jeremy Monblatt, examined the case of Richard Cullen, a 65-year-old mechanic from Wiltshire, who killed himself after building up more than £130,000 of credit card debts. It revealed how Cullen owed RBS more than £35,000 through four different credit cards, although his annual income was just £15,000.
In the last year of his life, Cullen’s four credit cards generated RBS more than £4,300 in interest and charges — almost a third of his annual income.
A spokesperson for RBS told the programme: “We have a rigorous and responsible process for managing customer debt.” However, after Monblatt took his evidence to the Banking Code Standards Board, the BCSB chief executive, Seymour Fortescue, told him that RBS had no excuse for what had happened.
Fortescue said: “I find it extraordinary that this has happened. I think it is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, and there is no excuse for that. This is wrong. I will investigate it to see if there has been a breach of the banking code.”