Queen’s Speech is ray of sunshine in battle to beat fraud with plan to force banks to reimburse scam victims, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS
Sometimes I just want to stomp my feet and shout at the top of my voice, ‘Hellooooooo?? Is anybody listening?’ That is because, although writing about personal finance is a great privilege, it can also be deeply frustrating.
I love finding ways to help you grow your wealth, and wring every last drop of value from your hard-earned cash. But I get furious when I see nothing being done to stop companies and individuals who are hurting your finances – especially when they could be tackled with a simple tweak to laws or regulations.
That is why the Queen’s Speech last week was as refreshing as the first warming rays of sun on a beautiful May morning.
Shadowy: If it’s the banks’ – and not the victims’ – money on the line, banks will be better incentivised to try to claw it back from the criminals
Finally there is an action plan for issues we at The Mail on Sunday have been campaigning on for months – years in some cases. At last, we have Government action on access to cash. Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised legislation two years ago – now we will finally get it. There is a voluntary agreement in place, which requires banks to put in place alternative cash facilities if a community loses its last bank. But legislation will enshrine this requirement in law. Had such action not been taken, we risked some communities permanently losing the ability to access and deposit cash.
It may not solve the problem of banks deserting our high streets, but it is a step in the right direction. The speech also contained a plan to force banks to reimburse customers who fall victim to a scam through no fault of their own.
I have spoken to countless readers who have lost their life savings to scammers and then been left in the lurch by their bank. The number falling victim to these devastating scams leaps every year. The new regulations will mean far fewer will be left out of pocket.
What’s more, if it’s the banks’ – and not the victims’ – money on the line, banks will be better incentivised to try to claw it back from the criminals, and prevent the scams from happening in the first place. These new rules may finally turn the tide on fraud.
The Queen’s Speech also promised a reform of Companies House, something we have urged for months. The Companies House register is broken. I could set up a company in under ten minutes, call it Scams R Us, register it at a bogus address, and it would shortly appear on the register – no questions asked.
Companies House does not query the veracity of information provided, nor does it have enough powers to take down information it knows to be false. These failings allow fraudsters to set up companies that appear legitimate, and to register them in someone else’s name without their knowledge or permission. Thank goodness these practices will soon be curbed.
The Queen’s Speech is just the start. Now we need legislation passed to seal the deal. There is not a moment to lose. For every day that passes, more scam victims are left high and dry, access to cash dwindles and another crop of bogus companies is allowed to infiltrate Companies House. But for once a Government announcement has left me thinking that maybe someone is listening after all.