There has been much said and disclosed recently about the unfairness of Bank charges and the way in which customers have been handled by certain ‘institutions’.
Sentences such as ‘delay tactics’ have been used and the BBC, in the Money Matters programme, has challenged the legality of them under the Trading Standards act – with much success.
This is a tale about a close friend of mine who we will call ‘Ben’…..
Ben had been with the same Bank for over 30 years and up til a couple of years back had never been any bother to himself, or them. He had a small business but gave it up when something else more lucrative came along.
He cancelled the Bank Accounts and let them know accordingly.
Two years went by when he received a call from a Business Manager saying they had overlooked some charges and he owed them, with interest, nearly £1000. There was no way out (or so it seemed at the time).
They gave him a Bank Loan to pay it off but on the condition he wouldn’t go overdrawn.
Fine, except they didn’t tell him there was a £150 set up fee and this made him overdrawn, three direct debits were returned and there was a charge on the overdraft (£140 costs).
In September 2006, the Bank ‘moved’ some money from one account to another and again made him overdrawn. He received notification they were doing this 4 days after they had!
Again, direct debits were unpaid and a charge of £38 per returned bill was made.
He phoned the Bank who told him he would need to speak with his Business Manager – but I haven’t a business he replied. According to them he had and the Manager was dutifully informed and asked to phone Ben.
After Ben making 26 phone calls, no reply came and he struggled on and just got by – until 15th.February 2007 when he realised he would need help .
He asked to speak with the ‘Business Manager’ (who they apparently sent texts and faxes to last September) only to find out that the chap hadn’t worked for them since last Spring!
They said they could sort it out and phone on the 17th. By the 21st, he still hadn’t heard, so wrote a long letter to the Manager of the Bank.
On 1st. February he received a reply (2nd Class post and no ‘leaflet attached for your info’) saying the matter was receiving urgent attention and an answer would be given within 14 days.
So, the chances were that a 32 day period would pass before something was done – plus during the time between the 15th.Jan and 1st.Feb, even more charges had accrued!!
Without hesitation, he wrote back and put it through their letter box explaining all the above and he had no option but to pass the information, with all letters back to 2002, to the Ombudsman.
By 10.00am the following day, he received a call and was offered £275 refund of charges, plus the other matters would be looked into and dealt with!
The things I got out of Ben’s situation were;
1. The Ombudsman charge Banks as soon as they start investigations, so it pays to go to them. Something can be agreed a lot quicker.
2. It has been said in the Press that these tactics are allegedly used, basically delay the answers, get some more charges adding up, then give them a Loan. Thus they have made money from both the charges and the Loan etc.
3. The attention drawn to all this by recent media has caused Banks to even set up special Departments to deal with the claims!
If a Bank Account is a mess and it’s absolutely the fault of a person being stupid, fair enough. But for the person who, for one reason or another, is maybe a bit silly, then had unforeseen problems and the decency to ask for help, or advice – is it fair to penalise the maximum
There are businesses owned by individuals which just go Bankrupt to get things sorted out for themselves, then open another one on the same theme under a different name 10 weeks later – I’ve seen this many times!
Are they being suitably punished?
Ben over the years had paid in thousands of pounds with no overdraft. Did he charge the Bank for having his money? They did give him the grand sum of 0.25% for the money he had in the current account though!!
Was he not always given 7 days notice to reply to problems? Yet they took 5 months not to answer any?
If you’re in problems, have a look at the BBC Money Programme pages. There’s a letter for you to copy and send to your Bank if you feel you’ve paid too much.