Offering an iPad as an incentive for consumers to submit their “best complaint” sends out all the wrong signals at a time when policymakers say they are looking to encourage a more responsible society.
The fact that the event offering this prize, National Complaints Day, was promoted by the Financial Ombudsman Service is very worrying.
The FOS certainly needs to promote itself to all areas of society to ensure everyone knows they have a fair arbiter to turn to in the event that they believe they have been ripped off by the industry.
But this iPad prize both trivialises an important route for vulnerable consumers to get compensation from firms and encourages the type of complaints culture which does no-one any good.
The only encouragement anyone should need to complain is the belief that they have been missold and the desire to get their money back.
Bribing people to complain with such a prize is not too far of a jump from the claims management companies who wasted the time and money of so many people by dredging up unnecessary complaints in the past.
The mind does boggle over the process they went through to judge the best complaint. Were they looking for wit and humour? Were they looking for the most outlandish, fantastical complaint of the day? Were marks taken off for bad spelling or grammar?
For the spokesman of the website who organised the day to suggest that the prize was not meant to stimulate complaints is incredible.
Fair play to the FSA for publicly distancing itself from the event and asking for its logo to be removed.
At a time when the FSA is debating with the industry the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved in the buying, selling and advising of financial products this prize really does send out a terrible message.
Paul McMillan is editor of Money Marketing