We've been away, and our details have changed, but (sadly) the banks haven't.

2008 and we're back..



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Highway Robbery Barclays style..

Having a card payment rejected is always a bit of a shock - especially if the payment is for medical supplies, and very much if it's just after an end of February payday!

Stuart had this experience recently, and called Barclays helpline for assistance.

It took three calls to the helpline to be put through to anyone able to comment - three sets of security questions, and three explanations. (Calls one and two were: wrongly transferred and just cut off.)

The eventual comment? "you were overdrawn before your monthly payment went in, so the salary payment just paid off the debit amount."

Barclays staff advised that to "assist" customers they give a certain amount of leeway before rejecting payments, hence the overdrawn amount - but Stuart points out that having advanced almost a full monthly salary without warning letters or phone calls, the bank has now simply paid itself back and stopped further credit.

"I have an empty fuel tank, dental and hospital treatment I'll have to cancel because I can't afford bus fare, and a good chance of losing my job if I can't get to work."

'Helpful' Nicola in Sunderland confirmed that Stuart wasn't eligible for an overdraft to get him through the rest of this month,but did refund £90 in bank charges to put the account back in (£82) credit.

Barclays had sold household and motor insurance at the end of last year with the enticement of £100 cashback - which was never paid.

The bank also continued to pay household and motor premiums to the replaced insurer Norwich Union for 3 months - something which came to light during one of today's conversations.

Keen to retrieve any available cash, Stuart suggested that under the Direct Debit Guarantee these payments should refunded*.

One Barclays telephone agent said "you'll have to contact another company about this - Edo Star" (??) [That was one of the aborted calls] No contact number was given, and the web has no trace of a relevant company..

'Helpful' Nicola said - "You need to speak to NU as a matter of courtesy and ask them nicely if they will refund the cash."

Asked about the DD Guarantee 'immediate refund' she said "No it takes a long time for us to refund this sort of payment. There's lots of paperwork involved. You are better off talking to the company that raised the debit.

Stuart now has a couple of mid-week days off work to try and refinance his month, with the added incentive of major toothache and ongoing medical problems.

-Oh and Barclays have restored his online banking access just in case he manages to bank any further paycheques...

The last advice he got from the helpline was to 'go see your local branch' - which is some driving distance away (no cash, no petrol, no card.. remember?).

The questions we'd like answered are:

How can a bank

  1. voluntarily lend almost a month's salary as an 'unauthorised overdraft' without information or warnings, then take back the amount in one payment and abruptly end the arrangement without warning.
  2. attract insurance customers with 'match the cost' and '£50 cashback' offers that aren't ever paid out.
  3. take over insurances and continue to pay the former insurer too
  4. ignore the much advertised "Direct Debit Guarantee" with a well-practised sales pitch without any fear of sanction
  5. leave customers with zero funds and invite them to take time off work to travel to visit their bank, rather than deal with issues properly over the telephone "helpline".
  • and how can an insurer "for your convenience" continue to take payments for a cancelled insurance policy...

* If an error is made by the organisation or your bank or building society, you are guaranteed a full and immediate refund from your branch of the amount paid. .http://www.bacs.co.uk/BACS/Consumers/Direct+Debit/Your+rights/

You may have gathered this story is close to our heart, so we'll be following this up with complaints to and comments from:

Office of Fair Trading

Financial Ombudsman Service

Banking Code Standards Board



- plus various MPs and Select Committees


If you'd like to ask a question of make a comment contact:
stuart (at) lemonaid.net

BBC's Brassed Off Britain takes a critical look at banks - amongst other things - see their website for full details.

Vote for Banks as Britain's worst industry!


nabic is a UK independent no-profit group for consumer and commercial users of banking or insurance services

Our knowledge base has developed from customer queries and problems raised over the past 10+ years, and is made up of explanationsfacts and (coming soon) lists.

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Updated 26 February, 2008

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