Tuesday, 27 July 2010

A note on complaining,

I've recently resolved a little issue that I had with NatWest bank, so I thought I'd tell you about it. Before I get started, this is more a post about the art of complaining and how much I love to complain than about NatWest being terrible. Mistakes happen, so this is more about how to deal with them than anything else.

Back in February, May and I were in the final stages of purchasing our first house and I needed to withdraw money from my ISAs to pay the deposit and legal fees. After popping into branch, I learned that I could only
make withdrawals from my online e-ISA free of charge into a NatWest branch-based account. As I don't bank with NatWest, the only other account I held was an online e-Savings account. Unfortunately this wasn't suitable to withdraw the money into.

Finding the situation incredulous, I had a good few phone calls, web chats and some more branch visits to try and get clued up. Alas, everyone I spoke to gave me a different story about what was and wasn't possible. I was left with the impression that branch and online at Natwest are totally separate entities and that neither understand the other.

I decided to go with the suggestion from in branch and pay £23 to make a CHAPs transfer from my e-ISA to an external account. Having to pay to get access to my own money was pretty annoying, but given the situation I signed the paperwork and went on my way. The next morning, I got a phone call to tell me that CHAPs from an e-ISA to an external account was totally impossible (contrary to the previous days solid assurances), but that if I gave my verbal approval, they would fast-track me a branch-based account into which they could withdraw the e-ISA and then perform the CHAPs to my external account. I agreed and first thing the next day I checked my online statement to check everything had gone correctly.

At first glance, everything looked fine, but when I looked closer I noticed that the newly created savings account had £X (where X is many thousands of pounds) in it, and that my e-ISA had been debited £2X. That's right, the did what they told me was impossible and did the CHAPs direct from my e-ISA and ALSO transferred the amount out of my e-ISA into the new (and totally unnecessary) branch-based First Reserve account.

Brilliant work NatWest, I've been sheltering that money from tax in an ISA for nine years and you just withdrew £X for no reason and essentially without my permission. Understandably, I was pretty annoyed to discover this and headed down to the branch to get things sorted, reclaim my CHAPs fee (CHAPs is guaranteed within 24 hours, they didn't deliver) and open a formal complaint.

Below is my correspondence with NatWest:



"Dear [redacted],


Thank you for you letter dated 1st March 2010, your reference 12687022. I am still dissatisfied with NatWest as you have merely repaired the damage you caused, rather than offering any form of compensation for my wasted time and anguish.

As I explained to your staff, the withdrawal from my ISA was to complete my first house purchase. As I'm sure you appreciate, buying your first property is a very significant and stressful time, and to be let down by NatWest at such a critical moment is simply unacceptable. You made getting at my money quickly impossible, and everyone I dealt with (branch staff, numerous phone agents, web chat) provided a different answer about what was/wasn't possible given my combination of accounts. You seemed unable to understand your own products and I was the one left inconvenienced and unnecessarily stressed by your internal deficiencies. I got the impression from this experience that there is a gulf between your on-line and branch operations and in comparison with other retail banks I've dealt with, NatWest feels about 10 years behind what's current in terms of both on-line presence and customer service.

Although you have made good the £X you transferred out of my ISA account without authorisation and refunded my CHAPs payment fee (you were unable to comply with your own contract of same day transfer), I regard this as the bare minimum of your duty to me. I suggest £200 as an adequate amount of compensation commensurate with my time and anguish associated with this regrettable event. If you are unable to offer suitable compensation I shall proceed as advised by your complaints process by first contacting the Customer Relations Manager and then the Financial Ombudsman. I look forward to your prompt response.


Kind Regards


Tim Poultney"



"To: Customer Relations

Dear Sir/Madam,


I write to you in accordance with the Natwest customer complaints procedure. Enclosed you will find a copy of my letter to [redacted] at your White City branch and also her response. For completeness, I have included a prior letter from , which I received shortly after the incident I am complaining about.

Please can you read both my letter to and their response dated 19th May. In my letter, I summarise my complaint and then request financial compensation from you in respect of time wasted and anguish suffered as a result of your banks incompetence. I am sure you place a high value on your customers happiness and satisfaction with you, and also on your reputation, so I anticipate a positive response from you. I'm not sure how I can be any clearer about what I expect from you than I was in my letter to dated 10th May; the response asking me to provide "the copy of your bills" suggest to me that they either didn't read my letter, didn't comprehend it, or lack sufficient power to act upon it.

To that end, can you respond to me directly and resolve this issue. In addition, can you share with me what steps you will be taking to ensure this type of situation does not happen again. If I am not satisfied with your response, I shall continue to follow your complaints process and will contact the Financial Ombudsman. I anticipate your prompt response.


Kind Regards,


Tim Poultney"



So eventually they refunded the £23 and provided £200 for my inconvenience after three letters.

Summary: Complaining is good. Despite the eventual outcome, I won't be banking with NatWest again. All my accounts there are now closed.

1 comment:

andypiper said...

"I won't be banking with NatWest again" - a conclusion I reached when one of their machines decided to eat my card shortly into my first professional job and leave me screwed in the middle of a business trip. :-(