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ombudsman news

issue 21

October 2002

round-up of banking cases

This small selection of case studies illustrates a few of the banking complaints we have dealt with recently.

debit card - maladministration - financial difficulties

Mr and Mrs I opened a current bank account with the firm. It provided them with debit cards - but mistakenly linked the cards to someone else's account. As the other person's account was then overdrawn beyond its agreed limit, payments using the debit cards were refused. The bank apologised and promised to sort it out. It issued replacement debit cards, but again linked these to someone else's account.

Around this time, Mrs I became chronically ill. She had to give up work, and her husband had to change jobs so that he could help look after their children. The couple were putting about £300 per month into the account and they said they checked the balance regularly through the firm's telephone banking service.

About a year later, the firm wrote to the couple out of the blue. It told them that £2,900-worth of their debit card transactions had been wrongly debited to someone else's account. Now this had come to light, the firm said it would knock off £250 as compensation but would then debit the couple's current account with £2,650. It wanted them to pay this off within the next year. Mr and Mrs I said they could not afford to do this, although they did not dispute having made the transactions.

complaint settled
We were able to arrange a mediated settlement. In view of Mr and Mrs I's financial circumstances, the firm agreed it would knock off £1,000 and not charge interest on the remaining £1,900. It would let them pay this off at £25 per month, subject to review if the couple's financial circumstances improved.

credit card - section 75 liability fobbed-off - inconvenience

Mr E used his credit card, issued by the firm, to pay £600 for some carpets. These never arrived. He claimed from the credit card company under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act - which, in certain circumstances, makes the supplier of credit equally liable with the supplier of goods/services for any misrepresentation or breach of contract. The firm said it was only required to meet Mr E's claim if he first got a court judgment against the supplier of the carpets.

When Mr E persisted with his claim against the firm, it repeated its stance several times - bringing in its in-house lawyers to lend weight to its position.

complaint upheld
We decided that the firm must have known, or definitely should have known, that its stance was entirely wrong. We required the firm to refund the price of the carpets. We also required it to pay Mr E £250 for the inconvenience it had caused him by repeatedly fobbing-off his justified claim.

incorrect payment - change of position - distress

The firm phoned Miss A about some bonds that were due to mature. She did not recall having the bonds, but the firm told her they came from an account that she had used for investment while she was abroad.

When the firm sent her forms to sign before it released the proceeds, she again queried whether the bonds were hers. The firm assured her they were. Even so, she was astonished when the firm credited £85,000 to her account. The firm again confirmed that the money was hers, so she reinvested most of it through the firm, and made considerable changes to her lifestyle and commitments.

About six months later, the firm discovered that the bonds had not belonged to Miss A after all. But it did nothing for a further four months. It then froze her accounts and took back all of the money that had not been spent. It asked her to repay the balance, which came to £20,000 with interest, and it registered this as a debt with a credit reference agency.

complaint upheld
We were satisfied that Miss A had acted in good faith. She would not otherwise have reinvested the money through the firm. She had spent money on things she would not otherwise have bought, and she had run down her business. We required the firm to write off the money she had spent, repair her credit rating and pay her £2,000 compensation for distress.

Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.