Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  I sent HBOS, by recorded delivery, my passport, along with a bank statement, as proof of identity and address, applying for a Bank of Scotland credit card.  This was weeks ago and I still have not had my passport returned, nor a proper answer to my letters of complaint.  I had been due to go abroad in October and I am very disappointed as I am no longer able to do so.  It is inconvenient and upsetting to no longer have my passport.  KR, by email.


A  HBOS was unable to reconcile your passport with your credit card application – and so, amazingly, destroyed your passport!  A spokeswoman for HBOS explains: “In the first instance [the reader’s] passport was delivered to the incorrect department. This was then forwarded to the right department who processed it for ID checks. When the passport was sent on for it to be scanned, the accompanying documentation went missing. This resulted in the passport being filed in the mail services department for over two months. Once two months had passed and the passport had not been claimed, mail services, who had been storing it, returned it to the passport office where we believe it has been destroyed.  As a result of the mistakes that were made in storing the passport rather than trying to identify who it belonged to, we admit that the service we have provided is not of the standard we expect.”  In all the years The Independent has published this column we cannot recall another incident of such complete service failure.  HBOS offers you compensation of £400 for the “distress and inconvenience” this has caused you.  You have not responded to our enquiries as to whether this is acceptable to you.  If you have cancelled travel arrangements as a result of this failure by HBOS, we strongly advise you to claim for the costs of that in addition to the £400.  Not surprisingly, HBOS has also told its passport office that it should improve its service standards and take additional steps to trace a customer before it destroys such an important document.


Q.  I booked a hotel as accommodation for the Labour Party conference in Manchester.  But sold me a hotel that was not in the location in which it was advertised – the map on the website was wrong. The hotel was not in Central Manchester as advertised, nor in the location shown on their map, but is nearer Salford. Telephone calls have led to nothing but contradictory explanations.  Lastminute’s excuse was that it could not get a refund from the hotel chain, Holiday Inn, and so could not help me.  I have emailed several times, but I have not received a response. JS, by email.

A accepts that its website map was wrong and misleading.  It has now corrected the website and fully refunded you.


Q.  My grandmother wanted to pay my brother’s T-Mobile bill using her credit card.   The card issuer saw this as unusual activity and without checking it with my grandmother, reported it as fraud, cancelled the transaction and claimed the payment back from T -Mobile.  T-Mobile then barred my brother’s telephone and mobile number on the grounds of suspected fraud and demanded £560 – representing the account balance, plus the charge for the rest of the contract period.  My grandmother is nearly 90 and has unsuccessfully tried to resolve this with the card issuer, which is highly stressful for her.  T-Mobile has now sent debt collectors to my brother’s home.  He is disabled and needs the phone, but doesn’t have the money to pay the bill.  We have spent months trying to sort this out.  RH, London.


A  T-Mobile has agreed to write-off the balance on your brother’s account and the debt collectors have been instructed to take no further action.


Q.  Barclays closed my current account because I failed to stick to its repayment plan on an £800 overdraft.  But I never used my card to make payment while overdrawn, all direct debits and standing orders were cancelled and I intended to clear all my debts before using the account again. One day I went into my local branch to make the agreed monthly repayment in cash. But the bank convinced me to see a financial adviser, who talked me into upgrading my account for about £15 a month to obtain some benefits. I told her my account was in the red, but she waived my concerns, checking my account on its system and saying that everything was fine.  My overdraft was then increased to £1,000.  To my surprise I then received a letter saying that I had exceeded my overdraft limit.  My internet facilities as well as telephone banking facilities were withdrawn. I could only check my account by ATM machine, but when I did this my card was retained.  Surely the bank should share the blame for me going over my overdraft limit by misinforming me?  NR, London.


A  Barclays says that you are wrong to believe that it was the upgrade of your account to Additions Active at a monthly £15 cost that caused you to breach the previous terms of your overdraft repayment agreement.  It says that you were responsible for breaching five repayment plans before the bank finally closed your account.  Barclays first put your account in for collection in July 2009; you were sold the Additions Active upgrade five months later; and the account was finally closed in June this year.  It appears to us that Barclays is correct in concluding that it was not the account upgrade that was responsible for you breaching the overdraft repayment terms.  But it also seems to us that Barclays was irresponsible in upgrading your account at a time when you had already breached the terms of two repayment agreements.

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