You can’t treat us like this, Señor!

Span­ish bank San­tander ac­cused of shock­ing ser­vice Sav­ings lost in limbo, Isas taxed, wrong in­ter­est paid

Daily Mail - - Money Mail - By Sylvia Mor­ris sy.mor­ris@dai­ly­

TO­DAY Money Mail ac­cuses High Street gi­ant San­tander of palm­ing off cus­tomers with shock­ingly shoddy ser­vice and com­mit­ting rudi­men­tary er­rors which are rob­bing savers of vi­tal in­ter­est.

We have re­ceived a tide of com­plaints about the Span­ish-owned bank, which has be­come a ma­jor force on our High Streets af­ter tak­ing over Abbey, Al­liance & Le­ices­ter and the sav­ings busi­ness of Brad­ford & Bin­g­ley.

It has built up a mas­sive cus­tomer base of more than 25 mil­lion by of­fer­ing best-buy sav­ings and mort­gage rates. It is Bri­tain’s third-largest sav­ings ac­count provider and sec­ond-biggest mort­gage lender.

But while the mar­ket­ing depart­ment is in over­drive, cus­tomer ser­vice of­ten ap­pears lack­adaisi­cal and, at times, non-ex­is­tent. Com­plaints in­clude:

CASH Isa trans­fers — even those be­tween its own brands — have been lost for weeks;

TAX has been er­ro­neously de­ducted from cash Isas;

IN­TER­EST has been cal­cu­lated in­cor­rectly on other sav­ings ac­counts;

CUS­TOMER s er­vice staff fob off com­plaints;

GEN­UINE vic­tims of fraud have been frus­trated in their at­tempts to re­ceive pay­outs; and

SAVERS have suf­fered in­ter­est shocks be­cause they are not told of a rate changes. Con­sumer watchdog Which? has just named San­tander the worst bank in t erms of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. And this is re­flected in Money Mail’s post­bag.

Since Al­liance & Le­ices­ter’s sav­ings busi­ness moved to San­tander at the end of May, we have al­ready seen it pick­ing up San­tander’s bad habits.

James Da­ley, edi­tor of Which? Money, says: ‘Our money helpline gets a con­stant stream of com­plaints about San­tander, mainly about slow Isa trans­fers and poor cus­tomer ser­vice.

‘The bank is at the bot­tom of the pile of our lat­est cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey. It has a long way to go to come up to scratch.’ The sur­vey, car­ried out last week and cov­er­ing 15,000 read­ers, gave San­tander a sat­is­fac­tion rat­ing of be­low 50pc, while the top per­form­ers man­aged 90pc. Who do you think is Bri­tain’s worst bank? Vote at www.thi­sis­ bankpoll

A to­tal of 3, 255 cus­tomers com­plained to the Fi­nan­cial Om­buds­man Ser­vice about the group’s bank­ing a nd credit prod­ucts in the last six months of last year. With Al­liance & Le­ices­ter, 54 pc were re­solved in f avour of the cus­tomer, higher than the 47 pc av­er­age of all fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. San­tander had 48 pc of com­plaints up­held.

San­tander has been des­per­ate to woo new cus­tomers. Its sav­ings ac­counts and mort­gages reg­u­larly of­fer the best rate, it has a tan­ta­lis­ing, com­pletely fee-free bank ac­count, and the only UK credit card that of­fers fee-free cash with­drawals and pur­chases any­where over­seas.

In March alone it opened 340,000 new Isas.

But these deals are dis­guis­ing the shoddy ser­vice Money Mail be­lieves cus­tomers are re­ceiv­ing.

And it is not just cus­tomer ser­vice where cus­tomers must watch their step. The mar­ket­ing blitz has seen prod­ucts launched with clauses de­signed to trip up the un­wary. Al­liance & Le­ices­ter launched a top sav­ings ac­count ear­lier this month, within days of mov­ing to San­tander. The rate is boosted by an ini­tial bonus. But un­like bonuses from most other providers, this one is vari­able. It can change it at any time.

And Al­liance & Le­ices­ter plans to raise its min­i­mum counter cash with­drawal for cus­tomers with ba­sic bank ac­counts to £300 from July 1. San­tander cus­tomers with its In­stant Plus ac­count are al­ready charged £3 for counter with­drawals.

Both San­tander and Al­liance & Le­ices­ter have a string of ac­counts ‘closed’ to new savers and pay as lit­tle as 0.08 pc (0.1 pc) to loyal cus­tomers.

Mean­while, it pays 2.24 pc (2.81 pc) to new savers. San­tander Child Trust Fund, closed last year, pays only 0.25 pc on sav­ings up to £750 and 0.5 pc on higher bal­ances.

On chil­dren’s ac­counts, the old Brad­ford & Bin­g­ley Kid­zone easy ac­cess ac­count pays just 0.2 pc on £500 and 0.1 pc on smaller bal­ances. San­tander’s own Flex­i­ble Saver for Kids pays 0.4 pc. This is well be­low the 3 pc paid by North­ern Rock.

Steve Wil­liams, di­rec­tor of ser­vice qual­ity at San­tander, says: ‘We have had an ex­cep­tion­ally busy pe­riod with high lev­els of Isa trans­fer in and out of the bank. This high vol­ume has un­for­tu­nately im­pacted on the ser­vice we pro­vide to cus­tomers, and we would like to apol­o­gise to any­one who hasn’t re­ceived the ser­vice they would have wished from us.’

San­tander has now brought in ex­tra cus­tomer ser­vice staff.

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