Hussain couldn’t bank in his local branch due to its Covid-19 restrictions

Banking Covid-19

Hussain's bank wouldn’t allow him to transfer money at his local branch during the first Covid-19 lockdown. We established that the bank had offered a range of alternative services, and that there were no reasons why Hussain couldn’t have accessed these. While Hussain’s preference was to bank in person, we decided the bank had acted fairly and in line with official Covid-19 guidance.

What happened

Hussain contacted us after getting into a dispute with his local bank branch about not being able to use it during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told us he’d visited the branch to transfer £5,000 from one account to another account over the counter. But the cashier said that only “essential” banking could be done in branch due to lockdown measures at the time.

Hussain explained the cashier had mentioned other ways he could do the transaction, none of which he’d used before or was happy with. He said he’d needed the money in his current account as soon as possible, so eventually wrote a cheque and used the paying-in terminal outside the branch to credit the funds into the account.

Hussain had complained to the branch about the service he’d received. He said it had apologised for the inconvenience, but told him it had had to prioritise branch services for those who needed it the most. Hussain was unhappy with this response, and asked us to look into his case.

What we said

We considered the bank’s actions in view of the Covid-19 guidance that was in place at the time. On the date Hussain went to the branch, the whole country was in its first lockdown. The bank told us that the day after the lockdown had been announced, it had written to all its customers asking them to visit branches only if it was absolutely necessary – and setting out other ways they could manage their money.

This approach was consistent with that of the wider banking industry and in line with the Government’s “stay at home” order. Around the same time, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had published its own guidance for businesses, which advised banks to keep branches open where possible, but to take necessary precautions to keep staff and customers safe.

The bank told us that, in light of this guidance, it had needed to limit the number of people in branch at any one time, to ensure it could maintain a Covid-secure environment. This was why it had written to customers and had offered Hussain a number of alternative methods to do his banking, including this transaction, such as using telephone banking or online banking via his computer or a mobile app.

Hussain didn’t tell us about any particular reason why these alternatives weren’t accessible to him. While we accepted his preference was to bank in-branch, we were satisfied that the bank had done what it could to offer alternatives – and that he hadn’t been prevented from making the transaction he wanted to.

We noted the bank had already apologised to Hussain for not being able to provide his preferred service. We explained to Hussain that we thought the bank had acted fairly, and didn’t uphold his complaint.