riotact | 08.01.2008 14:25 | Social Struggles
"In five years of having a Woolwich account I had never once gone overdrawn, my account didn't even let me. Since Barclays took over my account last Summer I have been hit with over £200 of charges."
The scam worked like this. Many Woolwich customers had a £50 buffer zone built into their accounts, basically a marketing gimmick which increased any agreed overdraft by £50. When Barclays bought out the Woolwich they continued to honour this, until November last year when the facility was removed.
Barclays did not inform customers that their overdraft limit has been effectively lowered and continued to allow them to withdraw cash, charging them thirty quid a pop. One of our sources told us:
"They basically cut my overdraft limit without telling me and still allowed me to withdraw cash. They then charged me £60 for the privilege."
Luckily this customer was able to persuade the bank to repay these charges, however this is far from an isolated incident and others have not been so lucky. Our source informs us:
"When I finally managed to speak to someone on the phone I was treated like a naughty schoolboy. At no point did Barclays apologise and the clear implication was that it was all my fault."
"When I asked to make a complaint I was told one had been registered on the system. I asked if this would be followed up and was told no. I then asked if they had a complaints procedure, again I was told no."
However the story did not end there:
"After this debacle I asked for reassurance that my account would not allow me into the red again. This had always been the case with the Woolwich and Barclays assured me it would remain so."
"In December I left my account alone for a couple of weeks, hoping that the money going in would build up a nice little Christmas nest egg. When I finally checked my balance I discovered that the account had allowed me into the red again and instead of a tidy present fund I appeared to have a significant debt."
"Barclays had charged me over £150 for going over my limit in November. Again I was able to claim £60 of this back, but only after an hour long argument with customer services."
"Barclays claim it's my fault but ever since they took over my account it seems almost impossible to find out what my balance is. Visa payments suddenly seem to take days to clear and I can go to two seperate cash points and they both tell me completely different things."
This experience seems to be confirmed by the individual quoted at the start of this piece.
Barclays claim that they will only charge you three times in any one month period. On examining our source's bank statement it seems that Barclays will continue to allow you to withdraw money from an overdrawn account. It is only when Barclays have charged you three times that they cut the money off.
Our source also claims that Barclays at no point informed him he was overdrawn so the charges just kept racking up. Barclays deny this and claim several letters were sent out, however our source says:
"I have only ever received one letter from Barclays warning me I was overdrawn and this was only after I rang to complain. At this point I had been charged over £200 over a period of three months. I haven't had any problems with the rest of my post, so it seems strange that it's only letters from Barclays which don't appear to arrive."
We've had several reports of Barclays customer services being everything from rude to none existant. The following quote from a Barclays employee (1) seems to reflect the experience of many of the bank's customers.
"Come and be a Barclays desk monkey like me!!!!!!! Listen to the inane chatter of the useless wanker (or Woolwich customer, whatever suits you).....tell some ignorant waste of sperm that they were charged BECAUSE THEY HAD NO MONEY IN THEIR ACCOUNT!"*
On the subject of useless wankers the Guardian today reveals that Bob Diamond, boardroom director at Barclays, is on track to receive a bonus of at least £14.8m ...
... and so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Meanwhile a test case is slowly making it's way through the courts which will establish the legality of bank charges, in the meantime there's some info here (2) on how to claim charges back.
*void disclaimer - we sympathise with anyone who has to sit on the end of a phone at Barclays for a living and hope we didn't get anyone into trouble. We just wanted to nark Barclays off as much as possible, we're sure you understand.
And did we mention that a call from the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons has asked people to boycott Barclays (3) ... and whilst we're at it it would be churlish not to mention Barclays support for Robert Mugabe.(4)
Move over Watchdog, the void is the true consumer's champion.