Questions of Cash – November 2013

Q.  I have a current account with Santander in Salamanca in Spain, where I was an English teacher during 2010.  I was unsure if I would return, so I kept the account open containing €1,600.  I now know I will stay in England.  I have been unable to transfer the money to an English account.  I have online access to view my account, but it turns out this is insufficient to make a transfer of funds, for which I must prove my identity. Each time I phone the English-speaking call centre in Spain I have been told something different. It seems I must go to the Salamanca branch to prove my identity and sign security forms, but I am unable to go there. I have written to the branch – in Spanish – to send me the forms to make the transfer. I have heard nothing.  I visited my local Santander branch in England and asked if I could open an account with them and have the balance transferred. They stressed that the two banks are entirely separate and they cannot help.  Their advice was that I take a holiday in Spain and get the money while there.  I need the money for living expenses, not holidays!  I cannot believe that in the digital age the only way for me to access the money in my account is to visit Salamanca in person. RP, West Yorkshire.


A.  This has proven a surprisingly difficult challenge, but after several weeks and several false leads, we eventually succeeded.  Although the Santander Bank in the UK is separate from Banco Santander in Spain we realised it would be much easier if the UK bank could provide introductions for us to resolve your problem.  Introductions were made and initially it seemed that the matter was going to be easily resolved.  We were given the phone number of an English speaking Superlinea service – 0034 91 273 7090 – which we were told would enable you to make the transfer after answering some standard security questions.  We were also told that your branch in Spain was “not aware” that you were trying to make the transfer.  However, when you made the call, things did not work out as we expected.  Again it seemed that you would have to provide your proof of identity in person, involving a trip to Spain.  We made fresh contact with Santander’s head office in Spain, which made further efforts to find a solution.  It was then agreed that you would email the Salamanca branch directly to state that you instructed the branch to close the account and provide details of your account in the UK to receive the funds.  You were permitted to prove your identity by attaching a scan of your passport, which would enable the release of the funds.  That did not immediately work, as the branch apparently did not received the scanned proof of identity.  Eventually, however, everything worked smoothly and your account was credited with over £1,400.  The bank says that to avoid problems such as these it is important for customers to make arrangements while still in the country for remote access to an account.  Its spokeswoman explains: “It is normally a simple process to arrange phone and internet access. However, once a customer has left the country, security procedures make this much more complex. Banco Santander has an English-speaking phone banking line for customers in Spain, but a customer has to be previously registered for phone banking in order to use it.”


Q.  I lost my iPhone in early February.  I informed Orange and it blocked my account. I then signed with EE for an iPhone 5, but decided a few hours later to cancel the order while within the cooling-off period for distance sales.  It was too late to prevent the handset being despatched, so I had to refuse it on delivery.  EE was to cancel my new contract and refund all charges when the handset was returned.   Despite repeated requests by me for the refund, EE never repaid the money and owes me £70.  I ordered a new iPhone 4s from Orange, but the SIM card did not work.  A new SIM card was despatched, with a new PAC code for me to keep my phone number.  My new handset showed my old number on my handset, but a different number on recipients’ handsets.  A few weeks later the voicemail stopped working.  I decided to live with these problems as I had spent hours on the phone with Orange unsuccessfully trying to resolve difficulties.  In early September I told Orange about the voicemail not working as I was moving home and also needed to notify them of the change of address.  I was promised that I would be sent a text message and after that I could switch off the phone, restart it and the voicemail service would work.  I never received the text message and the voicemail service did not work after I switched the phone off and on.  Later in September, when I was moving and needed to be in regular contact with the solicitor and estate agent, my phone stopped working.  My husband phoned my number and a stranger answered, saying she had just bought a phone and my number had been allocated to her!  I phoned Orange yet again and terminated my contract.  Orange eventually agreed.  I asked for compensation, but was told this was unreasonable.  I requested a log of all my calls to Orange, but I was told this was not possible. Orange is still collecting money from my account.  RP, London.


A. Orange, which is part of EE, provided a short statement.   “We apologise sincerely that [the reader] did not receive the high standard of customer service that Orange strives for. We have offered [the reader] a gesture of goodwill, which she has accepted.”  We asked how much the gesture was, but there was no reply.  Given the scale of your problems we hope it was reasonably substantial!

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