Daily Archives: 27 May 2008

Abbey normal customer service

Readers may recall that late last year I blogged about my girlfriend’s family’s problems with Abbey when they tried closing her late stepfather’s account. That particular incident ended happily as if by magic once the Observer got involved.

I wish I could say that was the end of the matter. Sadly, it is not the case. I’ll let Alex’s mother’s letter to the Financial Ombudsman do the rest of the talking – there really isn’t anything my usual brand of sarcasm can add:

I have enduring power of attorney for my mother. She has recently moved into a care home and I wanted to purchase an insurance policy to cover the fees for her care home.

In order to fund this we needed to release the funds (approx £16,000) in her savings accounts with Abbey. I wrote to Abbey on 8th April, enclosing a copy of the POA form, asking them to transfer the funds to my mother’s current account.

A week later I phoned Abbey who said they had no record of having received the letter and could not speak to me because I am not the account holder.

The next day I received a letter from Abbey acknowledging that I had sent a copy of the POA forms and asking me to fill in a number of Abbey forms to register that I had POA for my mother. I did this immediately and sent it back to them – I had it faxed and posted from the local Abbey branch.

I then spoke to Abbey twice and was given conflicting messages – one person said they would transfer the money once the POA had been registered the other said that this would not be possible.

On the 24th April I received a letter from Abbey acknowledging that the POA had been registered in relation to my mother’s accounts. I didn’t receive anything else from Abbey and the cheque did not arrive.

On the 6th May I phoned Abbey again and spoke to someone called Maria in their Belfast office. Maria told me that a cheque would be put in the post and sent first class by the end of that day. It wasn’t.

On 7th May I phoned Abbey again but this time was put through to their Glasgow office and was told that they could not help because they could not see if any action had been taken; they did however give me the number of the Belfast office. I then called the Belfast office direct and spoke to Chris who refused to discuss any of this with me as I was not the account holder. I explained that I had POA and this had been registered with Abbey, but he still refused to talk to me about the account. Even when I quoted the reference from the letter from Abbey saying that POA had been registered he said he could do nothing!

Eventually he agreed to speak to their legal department and got the POA registered. He then said that a cheque would be put in the post that day and would phone me to confirm that this had been actioned. He did not phone and the cheque did not arrive.

On the 8th May I phoned Abbey again and spoke to someone called Miles who was very helpful – he said that the cheque had not been sent despite all the assurances and that he did not know why. He once again agreed that the cheque would be sent that day and that he would phone me on my mobile to confirm that this had in fact happened. Again he did not phone and the cheque has not arrived.

We have been given a one week extension by the insurance company to raise the funds but if Abbey do not send us the cheque that quote will no longer be valid and the price will increase by approx £6,000. The price of these policies has increased considerably since the credit crunch.

On the 14th May I spoke to Laura in the Belfast call centre. I was told that although they have a record of my power of attorney registration, they have no record of my request to close the account and send a cheque. I was told this would need investigating and that they would phone me back in 24-72 hours and would mark this as urgent.

At this point I also formally lodged a complaint, by e-mail, with the Abbey complaints department.

By the 19th May I had still not had any contact from Abbey and the cheque had not arrived so I sought legal advice from which?

They advised me that Abbey’s abysmal customer care and inability to respond within a reasonable time frame had contravened the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

I once again wrote and e-mailed the Abbey complaints department to this effect. I have still not had a response beyond a standard acknowledgment of the receipt of my complaint.

On 21st I phoned the Belfast office – a recorded message said that all their systems were down, so I phoned the complaints department and spoke to Sam who gave me a reference number and promised to phone back. He didn’t.

I phoned Abbey again on 23rd May, I spoke to the Belfast office again as the complaints department apparently closes at 5pm. Anthony said that they would investigate, as once again he could not find the POA registration, and phone me back. They didn’t.

I phoned again on the 24th and was referred to the ISA customer services helpdesk. Gillian said they would have to contact the ISA administration team who would not be in until Tuesday. I was told that referrals take 24-72 hours but they would mark it urgent. She also said that they only had records of me having phoned once – I have records of at least 10 phone calls to date.

At no point so far has anyone returned a phone call. The only acknowledgement I have received is a letter dated the 24th April confirming my POA registration and confirmation of receipt of my complaint on 22nd May.

My advice to anyone thinking of banking with Abbey? Don’t. In the meantime, any helpful journalist out there want to take this up? This whole sorry mess is haemorrhaging real money now.

In the meantime, here are some related links:

Cameron and Johnson timed the Venezuela announcement for after the Crewe by-election

At a stroke, Boris Johnson has undermined the capital the Conservatives have made out of the 10p income tax fiasco. It isn’t that the cheap oil deal with Venezuela was defensible – it wasn’t. It was this sort of tokenism that disqualified Livingstone from office in the eyes of most Londoners. But no-one begrudged low income earners from getting half-priced travel. In Crewe, the Tories ground Labour into the dust attacking them for doubling the 10p rate and blithely ignoring the impact it would have on low income earners. Now the Tories have imposed swingeing cuts on a very similar group in society.

What’s worse is the timing: on a bank holiday weekend just hours after winning the Crewe by-election during which time they had very carefully kept quiet about the plans. It is clear they don’t plan to offer people on income support any alternative, otherwise why the stark announcement rather than a more cuddly “consultation” about how to continue paying for the scheme? It is clear they knew it would be politically damaging. And it is abundantly clear that was not merely approved by CCHQ and Cameron but crafted by them in the first place. Make no mistake – this was Cameron’s decision.

Expect this issue to become a Focus leaflet staple, within London at least. I can think of no better symbol of how paper thin the “new” Conservativism really is. Scratch beneath the surface and the nasty side is just itching to come out. At least now we know, but is has the public already made up its mind?