HSBC panel banks on e-petition

Campaign against bank’s roster cull gathers steam

A petition about a bank panel is not common, but a Government e-petition against HSBC’s new conveyancing panel had already attracted 1,700-plus signatures at the time of writing, less than two weeks after the plea was launched.

The grievance is HSBC’s decision to slash the number of firms that act on residential property sales. The roster dropped from thousands – when there was no panel but a screening process – to 43, of which 39 are solicitors’ firms and four are conveyancing companies.

HSBC says the roster, which came into effect in January, will help prevent mortgage fraud and says there is “no reason” why non-panel firms should not still act for the bank’s customers, even if they are not on HSBC’s roster. But it offers much better terms to customers who use panel firms.

The Law Society has launched a campaign against the changes, with president John Wotton meeting Business Secretary Vince Cable.

A key complaint is the lack of an appeals process for failed applications after HSBC originally said it would allow appeals.

The petition’s author Robert Hailstone, founder of high street law firm network Bold Group, says the move is harsh on the many firms that have their accounts with the bank. He says the panel puts buyers in rural areas or those who want to use their family solicitor at a disadvantage and could delay or abort sales. The petition calls on HSBC to reverse its decision.

E-petitions need 100,000 signatures before the Government will look at them, so Hailstone has a way to go.