Consumer Protection

FSA Figures Reveal Huge Surge in Bank Complaints
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Guardian reports that according to the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Barclays was the bank with the greatest number of complaints in the second half of 2011. Reportedly, the 281,000 complaints made by Barclays customers was an increase of 30,000 from the first half of the year. However, Barclays chief executive of retail and business and banking  Antony Jenkins opined that the bank is moving in the right direction after reducing complaints by 30 per cent from 2010 to 2011. According to The Guardian, other banks experienced similar surges in complaints, with Lloyds TSB receiving 241,000 complaints (up from 182,000 in the first half of the year) and MBNA receiving 121,000 complaints (up from 71,000 in the first half of 2011). MBNA reportedly attributed the rise in consumer dissatisfaction to payment protection insurance (PPI), stating that “[t]he primary driver is PPI and we find that that is being inflated by aggressive claims management companies”. The Guardian also reports that “[t]he overall figures show that complaints about “advising, selling and arranging” increased by 69 [per cent] to 1,093,684, with 92 [per cent] of these about general insurance and pure protection products”.
The Guardian: Barclays tops FSA complaints list (28 March 2012)
(Source: The Guardian)

Penalties Sought Following Misleading Apple Advertising
Asia Pacific

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that the Federal Court has accepted an undertaking from Apple Pty Ltd (Apple) in response to an application for orders by the ACCC in relation to alleged misleading conduct by Apple. The ACCC alleged that a recent Apple advertising campaign misrepresented the 4G data connectivity capability of its latest iPad device. The ACCC sought orders including injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and refunds to consumers affected. Apple has agreed to take certain action, including displaying a clarifying statement on its products and signage, and contacting customers who have already purchased the product. A directions hearing and mediation have been scheduled for April 2012, with a liability hearing scheduled for 2 May 2012.
ACCC’s media release #1 (27 March 2012)
ACCC’s media release #2 (28 March 2012)

Related news items:
Herald Sun: Apple to refund Australians over ‘false’ iPad 4G (28 March 2012)
The Australian: Apple has proposed a refund for buyers confused over the 4G capabilities of the new iPad (28 March 2012)
(Source: ACCC; Herald Sun; The Australian)

EC Takes Action on Roaming Charges
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The European Commission (EC) has announced that it will introduce new rules to limit mobile telephone companies’ roaming charges. The EC stated that the rules “will create more competition in the roaming market” and will provide “safeguard limits on consumer prices”. EC Vice-President for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes stated that “[c]onsumers are fed up with being ripped off by high roaming charges. The new roaming deal gives us a long-term structural solution, with lower prices, more choice and a new smart approach for data and Internet browsing”. 
Further information from the EC
EC’s media release (28 March 2012)

Related news item:
BBC News: EU acts to end ‘rip off’ roaming charges (28 March 2012)
(Source: EC; BBC News)

Users Sue Google Over “Misleading” Privacy Policy Change

Bloomberg reports that Google customers are suing the company, claiming that they were deceived by Google’s new privacy rules. The complaint reportedly states that the class action represents “people who held Google accounts and mobile phones powered by its Android operating system from [19 August 2004] to until after 1 March 2012] when the new privacy policy went into effect”. The complaint reportedly alleges that the changes in policy “violates Google’s prior privacy policies, which deceived and misled consumers by stating that Google would not utilize information provided by a consumer in connection with his or her use of one service, with any other service, for any reason, without the user’s consent”. The plaintiffs are reportedly  seeking “damages for the alleged deception, as well as for alleged violation of the Computer Fraud Abuse Act and Stored Electronic Communications Act“.

Bloomberg: Google customers sue over changes to privacy policy rules (22 March 2012)
(Source: Bloomberg)

ACCC Publications
Asia Pacific

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released the following publications:

(Source: ACCC)