The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has lost an appeal against a landmark ruling that it failed to provide adequate access to its services. David Allen, 18, took legal action against RBS after it failed to provide wheelchair access at his local branch in Church Street, Sheffield. In January, the bank was ordered to install a platform lift and pay £6,500 damages. The estimated cost of installing the platform lift is £200,000. This was the first ruling of its kind and set a legal precedent which could have implications for other service providers.
On 20 November judges at the Court of Appeal dismissed the bank’s appeal against the ruling and ordered it to carry out the necessary access work. The bank told the Court of Appeal it had complied with the Disability Rights Commission’s Code of Practice and it had arranged access to three other branches. However, judges dismissed the appeal and ordered the bank to pay Mr Allen’s legal costs. Lord Justice Wall said Mr Allen could not access counter facilities at the bank and a duty ‘plainly thereby arose’ under the Disability Discrimination Act. The judge said the bank could have taken steps to provide access for those suffering from disabilities. He said: ‘The bank did not take those steps, giving as its reason not the disproportionate cost of carrying out the work, but simply the fact that it would lose the use of an interview room.’
After the judgment, Mr Allen, who had previously been forced to conduct banking business in the street, said: ‘I’m glad the bank finally had to apologise in court and acknowledge they treated me badly. They just failed to understand anything about the need for privacy and dignity.’