Scottish Daily Mail

Fury as older Premium Bond savers ‘aban­doned’

Tide of protest as NS&I moves to axe cheques and go online

- By Vic­to­ria Bischoff and Fiona Parker

SAV­INGS gi­ant NS&I is fac­ing a ma­jor back­lash af­ter ax­ing its Premium Bond cheques and forc­ing mil­lions of savers online.

The Trea­sury-backed bank has been ac­cused of aban­don­ing older peo­ple at a time when its cus­tomer service is al­ready in chaos.

From next month Na­tional Sav­ings & In­vest­ments wants to start pay­ing all win­nings di­rectly into cus­tomer ac­counts. Cheques will be sent out only in the ‘most ex­cep­tional’ cir­cum­stances.

That means cus­tomers must reg­is­ter their ac­count de­tails with NS&I to re­ceive prize money. Yet many older peo­ple are not online and they have been un­able to get through on the tele­phone as NS&I’s cus­tomer ser­vices lines buckle un­der the pres­sure.

Cam­paign­ers say the move is a be­trayal of mil­lions of savers who have held Premium Bonds for decades.

Ros Alt­mann, former pen­sions min­is­ter and a cham­pion for older work­ers, said her own 88-year-old mother is af­fected. ‘How can they pos­si­bly do this?’ she asked. ‘It will be caus­ing el­derly peo­ple fur­ther mis­ery on top of their iso­la­tion.

‘Many el­derly peo­ple can­not man­age dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity and right now they can’t even have any­one come in and help them.’

Five mil­lion cus­tomers re­ceive prizes in the post and more than a mil­lion cheques are sent out ev­ery month. Money Mail has been in­un­dated with hun­dreds of let­ters from fu­ri­ous read­ers who say the change is caus­ing huge stress at an al­ready chal­leng­ing time. Many are threat­en­ing to with­draw their cash un­less NS&I back­tracks.

Bar­bara Keeley, co-chair­man of the All-Party Par­lia­men­tary Group on Age­ing and Older Peo­ple, said: ‘Busi­nesses need to un­der­stand that not ev­ery­one will want to or be able to ac­cess ser­vices online and this should be re­spected.’

Martyn Day, Na­tion­al­ist MP for

Lin­lith­gow and East Falkirk, said: ‘It ap­pears that no thought has been given to the sharp rise in im­per­son­ation scams that the UK has ex­pe­ri­enced since the start of the year, with crim­i­nals cal­lously ex­ploit­ing Covid-19 to prey on the pub­lic and trick them out of their money. This has rightly made peo­ple even more cau­tious about dis­clos­ing their fi­nan­cial de­tails, es­pe­cially the el­derly.’

Brid­get Phillip­son, shadow chief sec­re­tary to the Trea­sury, said: ‘Older peo­ple are much less likely to have online bank ac­counts and much more likely to be hit hard by Covid- 19. It’s ir­re­spon­si­ble to make this change in the mid­dle of a deadly sec­ond wave, forc­ing those with no in­ter­net ac­cess at home to go out and seek it else­where.’ Caroline Abra­hams of Age UK pointed out that more than half of Bri­tain’s pop­u­la­tion over 75 do not use com­put­ers.

NS&I’s cus­tomer service lines were al­ready strug­gling as savers rushed to move their cash be­fore its rates plunged to as low as 0.01 per cent ear­lier this week.

Since the lat­est an­nounce­ment, el­derly savers with ques­tions have waited on hold for more than an hour only to be cut off. They now fear miss­ing out on prizes.

The Gov­ern­ment bank did not even tell all of its cus­tomers about the change, writ­ing only to those who use email or have re­ceived a prize since Oc­to­ber. NS&I says it will write to cus­tomers with win­ning bonds and ex­plain how to claim their prizes.

An NS&I spokesman said: ‘Pay­ing Premium Bonds prizes di­rectly into cus­tomers’ bank ac­counts is quicker, eas­ier and more se­cure. It will also mean that we can re­duce the num­ber of Premium Bonds prizes that go un­claimed where we don’t have a cur­rent ad­dress.’

‘This is caus­ing huge stress’

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