You can’t treat us like this, Señor!
Spanish bank Santander accused of shocking service Savings lost in limbo, Isas taxed, wrong interest paid
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.thisismoney.co.uk/ 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.