Scottish Daily Mail
Fury as older Premium Bond savers ‘abandoned’
Tide of protest as NS&I moves to axe cheques and go online
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’