Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Un-Cooperative Bank redux

Well, I know you are all out there on the edge of your seats waiting for the scintillating conclusion to the saga of my non-banking with the Un-Cooperative Bank. Even though I am exhausted and have my usual thousand things to do, the guilt has overtaken my better judgement and I am compelled to pen (or rather key) the rest of the story. Also I want to get it out of my head (there's hardly room for anything else).

So, as we left off, I had asked the Un-Cooperative Bank (which I will henceforth refer to as the Un-Coop) to cease and desist with opening the account and return all original documents, making the request both by email and by post (I gave up on the phone as it was costing me too much money).

2 weeks and 2 days after I asked them to cancel my application, I received a big fat packet in the mail. I thought, 'At least they've returned my documents'. Ha ha, guess what? They had opened an account for me, oh joy. Now I had a liability on my hands. Worse yet, as they didn't seem to pay attention to any communication I sent them, I had no idea how I was going to close the account!

I just ignored the whole thing for awhile, while various documents arrived in the mail for my new unwanted business account. On their Web site (as if I should trust anything else written there, but I was desperate), there was the address of an arbitrator for banking called the Financial Ombudsman. I took the time to assemble all the information concerning my dealings with the Un-Coop, organized them by date, put them into a letter, and sent it to this Financial Ombudsman, along with a couple of printouts of the 2 emails I sent to the Un-Coop. I then took my original cancellation email, forwarded it to the email address on the Un-Coop's Web site with "IS ANYBODY THERE???????????" prepended to the subject line and some extra lines at the beginning of the email about the appallingly bad service.

4 days after I sent that email to Un-Coop, I finally got a response (never got a response to the other 2 emails I sent). This response rendered a brief apology, and said I needed to fax a signed letter to a certain number to close the account. Frustrated beyond belief by the Un-Coop and waiting for the Financial Ombudsman to act, I replied via email to Un-Coop as follows:
You have offered no explanation as to the lack of
response. Why on Earth would I bother to fax? Email,
telephone, and written letters all went unanswered. I
wouldn't expect a fax to produce a different result.

Faxes cost me money. Phone calls to your customer service
center cost me money. Letters cost me money. Why should
I pay for your mistakes? I have written to the Financial
Ombudsman in case they can help me close my account and
get all of my documents back, because no-one at Coop ever
seems to respond.
1 week after I sent the letter to the Financial Ombudsman (henceforth the FO), I get a reply from them. Get this: they say they are currently receiving very high volumes of enquiries and will provide me with a full response as soon as they can. Am I surprised? No. They give me a contact reference number in the meantime in case I want to contact them about my case.

I wait for the FO to respond. In the meantime I get a statement from Un-Coop showing a £3 service charge (the account is supposed to be fee free for the first 2 years). I laugh.

9 days after I sent the email quoted above, I get the following response:

I can advise that this account was opened in May 2007,
however, as this is not a secure website, I cannot give
out any further account detail.

{I am far too kind to name this useless individual whose
initials are JL}
Note the personalization, the relevancy, the knowledge of Web vs. email. Such professionalism as I have never known in a banking service center(centre). (In case it's not blatantly obvious, I write with sardony.)

About 2 weeks after I received acknowledgment of my complaint by the FO, I sent an email with my case reference, asking how it was going. Guess what? Yup. No reply to this day to the email.

Somewhere in here I received another account invoice from Un-Coop for a £3 service charge. I'm beyond a response.

After awhile, I figure the FO isn't going to do anything, so I went back to trying to contact Un-Coop without spending too much time nor money. First I emailed a response to JL's magnificent example of customer service quoted above. It went like this:
Wow, a 10 day response time.  It boggles the mind to
think that Coop thinks that's OK.
A few days after that, I thought, 'What the heck' and I emailed a copy of the letter I sent to the FO to the black Un-Coop-business-banking-email hole:
Just in case anyone at Coop Bank cares, I've attached
a letter I sent to the Financial Ombudsman several
weeks ago. I received a reply from them dated June
18th, saying that they have high volumes of enquiries
and will provide me with a full response as soon as
they can.

In the meantime I've received some fee charge on the
Coop Bank account I never wanted to open and which was
advertised as fee free. Wow. You have outdone
Ain't life grand! Still not having heard anything from the FO (having emailed them twice with no response ever), I decided to try faxing the Un-Coop. Not only did I fax a request to close the account, but I also faxed a copy of the letter to the FO.

One week later I get a letter from Un-Coop which basically says, hey, thanks for contacting us about your unhappiness, and gee, we're sorry. And quoted directly from the letter: "One of my colleagues from our Customer Relations Team will be in touch with you by telephone or letter within the next 10 working days." And blah blah blah. The date on the letter is July 24.

On the 28th of July I get a letter from the FO. To summarize, they can't help me until the business has a chance to put things right (something like 90 days, or I could be confusing it with the broadband arbitrator, but that's another blog). They had written Un-Coop, and also sent me an address to write to Un-Coop, along with a name (though it looks fictitious to me).

Somewhere around August 11th or 12th, I get a letter from Un-Coop dated August 10th. This is the first time they have contacted me since the letter saying I would be contacted within 10 days. Let's see, July 24 to August 10 is, uh, take off my shoes, and, gosh, 17 days. Perhaps they don't understand the definition of the word within. I'd rather think that than that bankers can't do math.

This letter of August 10 apologizes for the delay in replying (personally I don't accept it, thanks all the same). It mentions that my letter highlighted training issues which would be addressed (training issues? these folks have no clue). No record could be found of me cancelling my application. The account was closed on July 28 following my fax received on July 19 (uh, does anyone see a problem here? 9 days to close the account that had no money in it and no transactions ever?) But the most priceless line was "Any original documentation would have been returned to you." Well, yeah, it would have been, had there been anyone remotely competent working there. But apparently there wasn't. Read on.

The letter finishes up to say "Should you wish to discuss these or any matters, please do not hesitate to contact me on {phone number} between 8am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday." And a signature and printed name.

I received the letter on a Saturday. I called Monday morning. I got someone who was not the person on the letter. I asked for the person on the letter. "She's not in today," I was told, "I think she's on holiday." That was the last straw. I let this person have it. Clearly, no-one at Un-Coop knows what customer service is. Clearly they don't understand that you don't put a customer and member through the wringer, send them a letter saying 'call me,' and not be in the office to receive the call. I told this person who actually was on the other end to GET ME A VERY SENIOR PERSON RIGHT NOW.

I had a long conversation with some woman who actually knew about my case, claiming that the letter writer had asked her to take over while she was away (though failing to put that in the letter). We had a nice conversation, and I reminded her that my documents had not been returned and would she see to it. Oh yes, she would, and they were working on their problems and they wish they had received my letter sooner and I reminded her that I needed a venue for that, and there was none (duh).

Stupidly, or perhaps resignedly, I did not take her name. Why stupidly? Because 2 weeks later I still have not received my original documents.

Moral of this tale: Don't bank with the Cooperative Bank, if you know what's good for you. And don't bank on email!

Coda: On August 29th, after I wrote this blog, I sent one more letter to the Un-Coop Bank in the hopes of getting my docs back. I addressed it to the last person from whom I had received a letter (the one that said I would have received my original docs by now). In it I wrote:

I’d like to give The Co-operative Bank the benefit of the doubt and assume that you just like receiving personal correspondence from me.But the reality is that this is now the 6th (sixth, that’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) time I have requested that my original documents be returned.

Please return all documents submitted for the application, as they contain sensitive and proprietary information which The Co‑operative Bank no longer has any reason to know.

In case you are wondering what the 6 (six) times are:

  1. By email to the unresponsive-but-well-advertised on May 10, 2007.
  2. By post to the address above on May 11, 2007.
  3. By fax on July 19, 2007.
  4. By a letter forwarded to you from the Financial Ombudsman sometime in July, 2007.
  5. By telephone on August 13, 2007.
  6. This letter dated August 29, 2007

In this day and age of identity theft, and especially considering the chaos at The Co-operative Bank, it is IMPERATIVE that I receive all copies of these documents. Please bear in mind that I CANCELLED the application for the account long before it was opened. I’m sure a legal entity would bear that in mind as well.

Funnily enough, I received a packet in the mail, with a letter dated September 3rd, 2007, which contained all my original documents.

The Un-Coop has a new ad campaign for its bank and insurance products. The slogan is "good with money".

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At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just confirming that coop is crap. My wife (Engineer in Renewable Energies) has a work contract in London, a national insurance number, an address in a rather "good" area. But no, co-op does not want her as a customer. Why? They can't say. She has been advised to write a letter to them to get further info. What a poor, poor performance.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found that with the exception of the UBS bank (head office switzerland, the english banks ALL of htem are the worst anywhere int he world. The ombudsman is totally useless, a relation after 2 and a half years of having lodged a complaint is still no further ahead. No wonder the banks get away with absolutely no service, lots of irresponsible and inaccurate charges and more....
we moved all of our investments and our banking (bar one) outside england. It seems that england is the pits .. and not jsut in banking.

At 5:28 AM, Anonymous Johnny Dee said...

Sorry to hear about your problems ... sounds like the experience I had with ntl.

However, I've been a Co-operative Bank customer for over 15 years, with both business and personal accounts, and I can honestly say that I haven't a single banking problem with them whatsoever. The only time I felt the need to complain was because of a barely literate grunter in a branch where I'd gone to change the business address. He said that I had to "do it in writing". I said, "I'm sure you have such things as pens and paper in this building -- I'll be happy to use them to put it in writing". He then wittered on that I couldn't change my address at a branch(?), but could write a letter on the spot (seems they didn't have forms for the task) and send it in their internal mail or through the post, or "whatever". As I ended up having to write a letter anyway, I described my experience with the grunter, who while he wasn't unfriendly, could have stretched his use of English as a native speaker to explain the situation clearly in a single sentence. "Sorry, it's not possible to change a business address in a branch; you have to write to Business Customer Services in Skelmersdale".

But really, apart from that minor irritation, I haven't had a single problem with them in over fifteen years!

At 2:50 PM, Blogger I18n G.A.L. said...

Well, in general I have had a good experience with Lloyds TSB, and friends have with HSBC. Interest rates in the UK vs the US are abysmal, however, and investment opportunities below the £100,000 threshold are pointless, whereas in the US, there are many options. It seems odd since one of the biggest world financial centers(centres) is in London.


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