Will the Lloyds TSB switch really be "seamless"?

Maybe not.

For the 4.6 million Lloyds TSB customers being forcibly switched to the new TSB Bank as of 9 September, the move will be a "seamless transition." So says Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group in an interview with the BBC. According to Horta-Osorio, the only change customers will notice will be a change of name. There is a bit more to it than that.

Ahead of the European Commission imposed carve up of Lloyds TSB, the group has a network of almost 2,000 branches. Before long, customers of the new TSB Bank will have a network of only 631 branches compared to the new Lloyds network of around 1,300 outlets. Customers of the new TSB Bank wanting to use a re-branded Lloyds branch will be treated as customers of a rival bank and pay service charges accordingly.

Lloyds customers using a newly re-branded TSB branch or vice-versa – TSB customers using a Lloyds-branded branch – will also find that their deposits will take longer to reach their accounts. Lloyds and TSB will, after all, be totally separate banks. In all of this, it is hard to regard the customer as being on a winner but the banks will be on a "nice little earner" in the future if you dare to use the wrong brand of branch.

The European Commission and the UK government will however pat themselves on the back and proclaim that an additional bank means more choice for the consumer so must be a good idea. Pure poppycock but the exercise has provided a windfall for IT contractors and branding consultants, among others. For Lloyds, the cost of this exercise has been massive: somewhere between £1.3bn and £1.5bn and counting.

As for being "seamless"? Well customers of TSB – in addition to having a branch network that has shrunk by two-thirds – will need to use new bank cards and negotiate around a new website. The website is down for much of this weekend by the by but in fairness to the bank, this has been flagged up well in advance. Then there is the management of Lloyds and the new TSB. In fairness to them, the project has been a massive undertaking and the TSB launch is going ahead next week on schedule.

For that, the management of Lloyds TSB deserves considerable credit. But by one measure – the inability to handle and assess customer complaints – Lloyds TSB is in a league of its own. The statistics released yesterday by The Financial Services Ombudsman were a shocker and shame Lloyds TSB.

It came as no surprise to read that a whopping 43 per cent of all PPI complaints in the first half of the year related to Lloyds and its various subsidiary brands. Lloyds has form as regards PPI – it was the most successful in selling – or mis-selling PPI – and has been getting more practice than most in handling PPI complaints. One might be forgiven for thinking that they would have got the hang of it by now. Not a bit of it. In February, it was fined £4.3m for dragging its heels in delaying PPI compensation to 140,000 customers.

Fast forward a few months and we learn that Lloyds complaints handling process is so dire that the Ombudsman found against Lloyds TSB in 90 per cent of PPI cases; as regards its Bank of Scotland business unit, the figure was not much better at 87 per cent. By contrast, the Ombudsman found against HSBC in less than one case in two (45 per cent) while Royal Bank of Scotland did even better with only 34 per cent of Ombudsman complaints relating to PPI mis-selling going against the bank.

For the record, the figure at Nationwide Building Society was a mere 7 per cent. Customers of the new TSB may be forgiven for hoping that certain aspects of Lloyds TSB’s customer service ethos remains with the new Lloyds.

Lloyds TSB. Photograph: Getty Images

Douglas Blakey is the editor of Retail Banker International

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The Brexit Beartraps, #2: Could dropping out of the open skies agreement cancel your holiday?

Flying to Europe is about to get a lot more difficult.

So what is it this time, eh? Brexit is going to wipe out every banana planet on the entire planet? Brexit will get the Last Night of the Proms cancelled? Brexit will bring about World War Three?

To be honest, I think we’re pretty well covered already on that last score, but no, this week it’s nothing so terrifying. It’s just that Brexit might get your holiday cancelled.

What are you blithering about now?

Well, only if you want to holiday in Europe, I suppose. If you’re going to Blackpool you’ll be fine. Or Pakistan, according to some people...

You’re making this up.

I’m honestly not, though we can’t entirely rule out the possibility somebody is. Last month Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair boss who attracts headlines the way certain other things attract flies, warned that, “There is a real prospect... that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months beyond March 2019... We will be cancelling people’s holidays for summer of 2019.”

He’s just trying to block Brexit, the bloody saboteur.

Well, yes, he’s been quite explicit about that, and says we should just ignore the referendum result. Honestly, he’s so Remainiac he makes me look like Dan Hannan.

But he’s not wrong that there are issues: please fasten your seatbelt, and brace yourself for some turbulence.

Not so long ago, aviation was a very national sort of a business: many of the big airports were owned by nation states, and the airline industry was dominated by the state-backed national flag carriers (British Airways, Air France and so on). Since governments set airline regulations too, that meant those airlines were given all sorts of competitive advantages in their own country, and pretty much everyone faced barriers to entry in others. 

The EU changed all that. Since 1994, the European Single Aviation Market (ESAM) has allowed free movement of people and cargo; established common rules over safety, security, the environment and so on; and ensured fair competition between European airlines. It also means that an AOC – an Air Operator Certificate, the bit of paper an airline needs to fly – from any European country would be enough to operate in all of them. 

Do we really need all these acronyms?

No, alas, we need more of them. There’s also ECAA, the European Common Aviation Area – that’s the area ESAM covers; basically, ESAM is the aviation bit of the single market, and ECAA the aviation bit of the European Economic Area, or EEA. Then there’s ESAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, which regulates, well, you can probably guess what it regulates to be honest.

All this may sound a bit dry-

It is.

-it is a bit dry, yes. But it’s also the thing that made it much easier to travel around Europe. It made the European aviation industry much more competitive, which is where the whole cheap flights thing came from.

In a speech last December, Andrew Haines, the boss of Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said that, since 2000, the number of destinations served from UK airports has doubled; since 1993, fares have dropped by a third. Which is brilliant.

Brexit, though, means we’re probably going to have to pull out of these arrangements.

Stop talking Britain down.

Don’t tell me, tell Brexit secretary David Davis. To monitor and enforce all these international agreements, you need an international court system. That’s the European Court of Justice, which ministers have repeatedly made clear that we’re leaving.

So: last March, when Davis was asked by a select committee whether the open skies system would persist, he replied: “One would presume that would not apply to us” – although he promised he’d fight for a successor, which is very reassuring. 

We can always holiday elsewhere. 

Perhaps you can – O’Leary also claimed (I’m still not making this up) that a senior Brexit minister had told him that lost European airline traffic could be made up for through a bilateral agreement with Pakistan. Which seems a bit optimistic to me, but what do I know.

Intercontinental flights are still likely to be more difficult, though. Since 2007, flights between Europe and the US have operated under a separate open skies agreement, and leaving the EU means we’re we’re about to fall out of that, too.  

Surely we’ll just revert to whatever rules there were before.

Apparently not. Airlines for America – a trade body for... well, you can probably guess that, too – has pointed out that, if we do, there are no historic rules to fall back on: there’s no aviation equivalent of the WTO.

The claim that flights are going to just stop is definitely a worst case scenario: in practice, we can probably negotiate a bunch of new agreements. But we’re already negotiating a lot of other things, and we’re on a deadline, so we’re tight for time.

In fact, we’re really tight for time. Airlines for America has also argued that – because so many tickets are sold a year or more in advance – airlines really need a new deal in place by March 2018, if they’re to have faith they can keep flying. So it’s asking for aviation to be prioritised in negotiations.

The only problem is, we can’t negotiate anything else until the EU decides we’ve made enough progress on the divorce bill and the rights of EU nationals. And the clock’s ticking.

This is just remoaning. Brexit will set us free.

A little bit, maybe. CAA’s Haines has also said he believes “talk of significant retrenchment is very much over-stated, and Brexit offers potential opportunities in other areas”. Falling out of Europe means falling out of European ownership rules, so itcould bring foreign capital into the UK aviation industry (assuming anyone still wants to invest, of course). It would also mean more flexibility on “slot rules”, by which airports have to hand out landing times, and which are I gather a source of some contention at the moment.

But Haines also pointed out that the UK has been one of the most influential contributors to European aviation regulations: leaving the European system will mean we lose that influence. And let’s not forget that it was European law that gave passengers the right to redress when things go wrong: if you’ve ever had a refund after long delays, you’ve got the EU to thank.

So: the planes may not stop flying. But the UK will have less influence over the future of aviation; passengers might have fewer consumer rights; and while it’s not clear that Brexit will mean vastly fewer flights, it’s hard to see how it will mean more, so between that and the slide in sterling, prices are likely to rise, too.

It’s not that Brexit is inevitably going to mean disaster. It’s just that it’ll take a lot of effort for very little obvious reward. Which is becoming something of a theme.

Still, we’ll be free of those bureaucrats at the ECJ, won’t be?

This’ll be a great comfort when we’re all holidaying in Grimsby.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Brexit. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.