Tuesday 12 July 2011

Insensitive Banking

An open letter to Lloyds TSB.

The Customer Services Manager,
Lloyds TSB.

Dear Sir,

Yesterday I tried to pay for the renewal of my car insurance over the telephone using my current account debit card. Even though I gave all the numbers and other information correctly, twice, the payment was refused. I could not understand this as there were and are ample funds in my account to meet the payment. Fortunately I possess a credit card with the Co-operative Bank and payment on this was accepted without demure. Had it not been I should have had to repeat the tedious negotiations with Saga, the insurers, to get them to honour their promise to match a lower "like for like" quotation and send them a cheque (which, for the moment is possible, but for how long?)

Later in the day I received an automated telephone call purporting to be from you and asking for information about my account,card and personal details. I responded to some of these but then became suspicious and, mindful of your repeated assurances that the bank would never ask for certain information, rang off. I was also worried that if the call were genuine and I answered all the questions correctly the payment would be actioned and I would end up paying twice for my car insurance. As the call was automated it was not possible to explain this.

I then rang your call centre to check on this automated call, and, after much pressing of buttons and listening to recorded messages at my expense on a premium number I was able to speak to a person, who assured me that the automated call was genuine, confirmed that there were sufficient funds in my account to honour the payment and gave no adequate reason that that I could see for refusing it. I recall with some nostalgia the happier days when I could ring my own branch, and would not have to go through a great deal of rigmarole to identify myself as I had grown up with some of the staff and some even recognised my voice.

I am grateful that you have measures in place to prevent my money being spent fraudulently by someone else, but suggest that you amend these as follows to achieve a system more sensitive to the needs of your customers, viz:

where you feel a payment is unusual impose a delay rather than a blank refusal;

check using a personal rather than an automated call;

restore the ability for us to telephone our own branches;

retain cheques as an alternative method of payment.

Although I am long retired I like to think that I retain most of my faculties and am able to deal with such unfortunate episodes without too much distress. However, there are many in my age group, and perhaps in others, who would find such episodes disturbing and confusing.

I look forward to receiving your initial response and your assurance that the above suggestions are receiving sympathetic consideration.

Yours faithfully,


  1. Very interesting. It's worth saying that I've had a few calls from Natwest during my time with them - it's triggered by computer when it registers what it deems an "unusual" purchase for you or a string of such purchases in a short space of time - but I have always had somebody call me from Natwest, usually at the point of sale, and speak to me directly and personally, which is something of a help.

    The points you raise I wholeheartedly concur with. Whatever happened to customer service?

  2. I can see that a computer trigger is useful, but feel that Natwest is right to make contact via a person and not a machine.

    One bonus of my own little contretemps is that my Co-operative Credit Card is an affinity card for Water Aid, so the Third World has benefited by a few coppers.