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JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Lloyds faces backlash for ditching passbooks


JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Lloyds faces backlash for ditching passbooks

I trust Lloyds Banking Group is prepared for a backlash from customers over its discontinuation of more than three million savings passbooks – a story my colleague Patrick Tooher broke seven days ago.

Although many banks and building societies have already done away with these books, they still remain popular among savers who prefer to use a branch rather than go online.

They are particularly liked by the elderly who are comforted by the fact that the book provides them with hard evidence of how much they have in their accounts.

The withdrawal of most Lloyds’ passbooks will take place between October and the end of the year. But some are already being deactivated as part of a ‘soft launch’, causing consternation in the process. Passbooks are disappearing across all the company’s high street savings brands – Halifax and Bank of Scotland as well as Lloyds.

A few days ago, I spoke to John Oddy about his son’s experience of being told he could no longer use his Halifax passbook at the branch in Birkenhead, Merseyside.

Deactivated: The withdrawal of most Lloyds’ passbooks will take place between October and the end of the year

Anthony Oddy, now in his early 50s, has Asperger’s Syndrome. He resides in supported living housing, but leads quite an independent life doing his own cooking and cleaning. Yet he is dependent upon cash, using it to pay his big bills (rent, heating and food). It means a weekly visit to his Halifax branch to withdraw money.

‘The staff know and look after him,’ John says. ‘Anthony likes the passbook because it tells him from week to week how much money he has in his account.’ Anthony, his father says, has never embraced the internet.

Recently, Anthony arrived at his branch to withdraw his usual amount of cash, only to be told the passbook was no longer valid. He left without the cash he needed to pay his bills, resulting in John lending him money when they met the next day.

Whether Anthony was told by the branch that he could still take cash from his account without using the passbook is in dispute – Halifax, in a letter to John, says he could; Anthony begs to differ. But what is indisputable is that Anthony didn’t receive any prior notification about his passbook’s deactivation – a point the manager confirmed to John when he visited the Birkenhead branch to seek an explanation as to what had happened.

Internal bank documents seen by The Mail on Sunday indicate that customers should be given two months’ notice of the change.

John, 84, complained to Halifax about his son’s account being changed from passbook to card based. Although his complaint was rejected, he received £20 in compensation for the time he had consumed and travel costs he had incurred trying to find out why his son’s passbook had been scrapped.

Rather insensitively, Halifax’s letter referred to Anthony’s branch being in Maidstone, Kent, rather than Birkenhead – branches 263 miles apart.

Anthony has now been given a card he can use at his branch to withdraw cash. So, he is happy although there is no guarantee that the Birkenhead branch will be around forever. One of the main objectives behind Lloyds’ removal of passbooks is to reduce branch usage so that it can ‘streamline’ its network.

As for John, a regular church- goer, he is perturbed by the gradual depersonalisation of banking, resulting in branch closures and more automated services.

‘Human kindness was once something you could expect to get from a bank,’ he says. ‘But in closing branches and forcing us to bank online, it’s in short supply. Now, some of my fellow churchgoers have to get a taxi if they want to visit a branch of the bank they have an account with. Is that progress?’

Of course, it isn’t.

If you have had a bad experience as a result of having your passbook removed, do let me know. Email [email protected] – or write to me at: The Mail on Sunday, 9 Derry Street, Kensington, London W8 5HY.

Rock on the town that kept its banks!

Some of the residents of Llandudno in Conwy, North Wales, remain unhappy with the council’s decision nine years ago to dump 50,000 tons of rocks on its main beach – to protect the coastline from erosion.

More than 10,000 people have so far signed a petition to the Welsh parliament calling for the rocks to be removed and a sandy beach to be reinstated.

Yet, one thing residents (and tourists) cannot complain about is the banking industry’s support for the town – a point made a few days ago by reader Peter Rowlands.

Heaven: Residents (and tourists) cannot complain about the banking industry's support for Llandudno

Heaven: Residents (and tourists) cannot complain about the banking industry’s support for Llandudno

The 63-year-old recently enjoyed a three-day break in Llandudno with wife Gaynor and daughter Emily.

Although aware of the hoo-ha over the rocks, what really caught Peter’s eye was the plethora of banks and building societies in the town. ‘I was pleasantly surprised,’ says Peter, ‘and they were all busy too.’

A contrast, he says, to his home town of Bromborough, Merseyside (five miles south of Birkenhead – see main story). The closure of the HSBC branch in July means the town now has just Nationwide remaining on its high street.

‘It’s good to see Llandudno bucking the trend,’ he says. ‘So a big shout out for this charming seaside town.’

Absolutely Peter, although I would bet a £1 on the last bank (not building society) shutting in Llandudno before the council returns the main beach to its former glory.

Fantastic campaign 

How fantastic that The Daily Mail has relaunched its ‘End Needless Prostate Deaths’ campaign to ensure that more men with symptoms get checked as quickly as possible. The earlier the cancer is detected, the greater the chances of conquering it.

Although I haven’t beaten this killer, my cancer is under constant surveillance. Not by the Chinese, but by consultant Christopher Ogden. An MRI scan awaits.

So please, get a check-up. And if you get the all-clear, make a donation to charity Prostate Cancer UK, boosting it if possible with Gift Aid.

Baffled by Barclaycard? Join the club

Barclaycard is quite good at customer communications. But its latest missive explaining changes to its terms and conditions has left some customers rather perplexed.

In detailing the changes, it has resorted to crossing out now redundant words and colouring words dark pink and red according to whether they are respectively new or existing. All contractions are in red.

You might not agree, but it took me a while to work out that the above spelt out that ‘default fees are fees that we charge if you don’t make a monthly payment on time. If we charge a default fee, we’ll let you know’. One reader suggests that if this document is a result of artificial intelligence, heaven help us. AI or no AI, it’s baffling and headache inducing.

NS&I changes tack

Government-backed savings giant NS&I always waffles on about offering products that are attractive to customers, not too costly for taxpayers and not so sexy that they make it impossible for banks to compete against them.

Yet, in launching two market-topping one-year fixed rate bonds that knock spots off equivalent offerings, it has changed tack. It has sent a loud message to the rest of the market that many savers deserve a much better deal than they are currently getting.

It is no coincidence that NS&I’s launch of its one-year guaranteed growth and income bonds (paying monthly interest) was accompanied with words from Andrew Griffith, Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

Pointedly, he said: ‘It’s vital that savers are able to benefit from recent interest rate rises.’ In other words, if NS&I can play fair, so can the banks and building societies.

I wait for savings providers to launch one-year bonds that beat the 6.2 and 6.03 gross interest rate on offer from the NS&I growth and income bonds.

I also hope that in being so bold, NS&I does not have one of its intermittent customer service meltdowns. Let me know if you have any problems dealing with them.

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