The Royal Bank of Scotland is to be investigated by the Banking Code Standards Board after a probe by tomorrow night's Panorama into debt-related suicides.
Panorama: The Money Trap (Sunday 2 July 2006, 10.15pm, BBC ONE) examines the case of Richard Cullen, a 65-year-old mechanic from Wiltshire, who killed himself after building up more than £130,000 of credit card debts.
When Mr Cullen died he had 22 credit cards with several different lenders.
The programme reveals how Richard Cullen owed the Royal Bank of Scotland more than £35,000 through four different credit cards, although his annual income was just £15,000.
In November 2004, two weeks after being chased for arrears on his Mint card (operated by RBS), his credit limit on his Tesco Personal Finance card (also run by RBS) was increased by £1,000 to £7,700.
In January 2005 he was found dead in his garage through inhaling exhaust fumes.
Mr Cullen's four credit cards generated RBS more than £4,300 in interest and charges in the last year of his life - almost a third of his annual income.
In a statement to Panorama, The Royal Bank of Scotland say it was not aware that Mr Cullen had a serious debt problem and it did not make any errors in its handling of him or his accounts.
The statement says: "Mr Cullen was a long standing customer of 14 years and there was no evidence in the management of his credit cards that he had a serious debt problem.
"Mr Cullen did not make us aware of the extent of the debt (approximately £100,000) he subsequently incurred with 16 other providers.
"We have a rigorous and responsible process for managing customer debt."
But the programme takes its evidence to Seymour Fortescue, Chief Executive of the Banking Code Standards Board, the body responsible for policing the banking code of practice.
Mr Fortescue says: "I find it extraordinary that this has happened. I think it is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing and there is no excuse for that."
He adds: "This is wrong. I will investigate to see if there has been a breach of the banking code."
Also in the programme, a senior banking executive reveals how high street banks deliberately target their customers and lure them into debt.
The whistleblower tells how the banking industry is driven by aggressive targets and uses hard-sell tactics and sophisticated marketing techniques to profit from customers, even as they spiral into financial difficulties.
It's a world where customers are given names like 'revolvers' and 'transactors' depending on their spending behaviour.
Richard's widow Wendy Cullen tells the programme: "Richard had a responsibility, he took out the credit cards and loans, but surely the bank must take responsibility as well for allowing him to go on and on getting deeper and deeper into debt."
Notes to Editors
The Banking Code is a voluntary code which sets standards of good banking practice for financial institutions to follow when they are dealing with personal customers in the UK.
The section on credit cards states: "Before we give you a credit limit, we will assess whether we feel you will be able to repay it".
RBS Group is the market leader in the UK's credit card market - worth over 50 billion pounds.