Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. I was insured with Budget for buildings’ insurance for three years. In December last year I told them we were moving house and that I needed the insurance to be transferred from the date of exchange for our new house. My policy was duly amended by Budget. In January we moved into our new house and a week later I was horrified to receive a letter from Budget advising that my buildings insurance had been cancelled by them. I phoned Budget, which insisted that my bank had returned the direct debit, that my premium was unpaid and that this was my fault. I found this highly unlikely as the same direct debit had been leaving my account for the last three years. I was told I could pay the cancellation fee of £140.50 – for a policy I did not wish to cancel – and take out a new policy. I refused to do this and Budget refused to initiate a new policy. I therefore immediately took out a new policy with another insurer. When I spoke to my bank I found that the cause of the problem was that Budget had re-registered my direct debit with my bank on 22 December and failed to wait the necessary five days before claiming payment. I then wrote to Budget requesting they delete the request for the cancellation fee, plus compensate me for my long phone calls from a mobile to their premium rate number, refund the £25 they charge as a policy amendment fee and pay me another £75.94 for the extra cost of the new insurance policy I was forced to take out. Budget instead only offered to pay the £25, plus cancel the outstanding demand for £140.50. Eventually Budget agreed to increase the £25 compensation to £50, but despite repeated requests, this has not been paid. LB, Bournemouth.

A. Budget has now agreed to pay you £200, comprising the initially promised £25, another £75 as the difference between premiums and a further £100 for goodwill. A spokeswoman for Budget said: “This case is not representative of the level of service we aim to provide to our customers. We recognise that whilst we try to resolve any customer issues efficiently and effectively, it is clear that on this occasion we have failed to do so and are extremely sorry that our promised resolution was not fulfilled. We constantly monitor the service we provide and invest in ongoing staff training, but acknowledge the service provided to [the reader] falls below the level we would expect.” Budget has also apologized to you.

Q. I went to a Santander branch in Dorset in April, put my cash card into the ATM, entered my PIN and checked my balance – which was £300 less than I expected. But the sun was shining brightly and I couldn’t read the machine properly, so I used the ATM inside the branch instead. I tried to withdraw £100, but the ATM refused, saying I had withdrawn £300 earlier that day. I spoke to the branch tellers, who said they had no control over the cash machine. There was then a double bank holiday and by the time I could speak to someone I was told to submit a complaint. Someone has milked £300 from my account, but my claim has been rejected and the bank has told me that although the sum was initially restored to my account balance, it will now be removed again. AK, Dorset.

A. According to Santander’s records, you withdrew £300 on your first visit to the cash machine. Those records also show that you did not carry out a balance inquiry at that initial visit and did so only when you used a second machine inside the branch. On this basis, Santander has refused to uphold your complaint. We can only suggest that given the glare that day, that you perhaps accidentally authorized a cash withdrawal and someone else walked off with the money. When banks develop cash machines that can be read clearly even when the sun shines directly onto them, we will all be happier.

Q. I borrowed a Career Development Loan (CDL) from Barclays to support my study. In April 2009, in severe hardship, I went over my Barclays account overdraft limit by £2. I was then hit by escalating charges – £22 every four days. I took this to the Financial Ombudsman, but this was unsuccessful. I also had an account with Bank of Scotland, where I went £7 over my limit and even though I had £50 going through clearing at the time, I was penalized by them, too, losing £200. I also unsuccessfully took them to the Financial Ombudsman. I have ever since been charged fees by both banks and Barclays want me to discuss the outstanding money with their debt collection department. I am now nearly £2,500 overdrawn, representing the fees I have been charged. I am now at risk of being taken to court and having bailiffs remove my possessions. This has all been very stressful at a time when my mum was dying of cancer. ER, Norwich.

A. Both banks point out that you exhausted the complaints procedures when you took your cases to the Financial Ombudsman and lost. It is not realistic to ask us to intervene successfully on your behalf after your case has been rejected by the ombudsman. While we are sympathetic to your grievance about the scale of fees charged by banks when customers go overdrawn, there is little we can do to help. Barclays points out that you have ignored its correspondence, which sought a dialogue about a means of paying-off your debt. It suggests that you speak to Citizens Advice to draw-up a statement of your income and expenses and to support you in making representations to the two banks to reach an agreed way forward with your debt management. We agree.

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