Santander: a bunch of stupid bankers, you suck

12.05.2011 – update
After being contacted by BBC Watchdog, Santander telephoned my wife to offer an apology and £100 (cheque) compensation. They accepted that things could have been done better and the complaint handled in a shorter time-frame. Whilst we had pretty much accepted an earlier offer of £20 credited to the account card, the apology and the extra £80 were in line with my request in the a letter of complaint to Santander in January 2011. Santander’s apology has been accepted.

Santander bank has made huge inroads into the UK finance sector. Abbey National, for example, suddenly became Santander…and from what I’ve heard from at least one customer, they’re not doing too good a job of it. Similarly, I’ve read an awful lot about how Santander are at the top of list of banks that consumers complain about. As you might expect, given the title of this blog post, I am about to “add one” to that pile of complaints.

Neither my wife or I have bank accounts with Santander, however my wife does/did have an Evans store card. In their “great buy up”, Santander acquired the Evans store card business along with Asda, BHS, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Outfit. It’s likely that they’ve got the store cards for those outlets too. Some evidence of this can be found over at Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert forums, here and here. And they’re not getting any better, as this post suggests.

Anyway, on to the problem that Santander created on my wife’s Evans card…and thus a problem that I have to work to solve.

During November 2010 my wife received her Evans card statement. It showed the previous balance and a payment received covering that same balance. It also showed a Late Payment Fee of £12. Naturally my wife was concerned and telephoned Nikita at Santander – Nikita assured my wife that it was their error and the £12 would be refunded. Here’s a copy of the statement:

Indeed, Nikita’s information was confirmed by Santander’s Tim Woods (Head of Santander Contact Centers) when he wrote to my wife on the 23rd of November 2010:

Sounded good. Sounded like Santander might have been proactive and sorted it out themselves. Great. Mr Woods works for Geoban – “Geoban is an internal company to Banco Santander, providing Operational Excellence to the Group Companies”. Operational Excellence, can’t get better than that, we’re in good hands.

At the end of November another Evans card statement arrived. It showed that the £12 late payment fee had been refunded as promised. However, it also showed another late payment fee had been applied. My wife telephoned Santander on the 13th of December and spoke with Shiraz. Shiraz did exactly what Nikita did, assured my wife that it was their error and the £12 would be refunded. Here a copy of that statement:

Further communication from Santander resulted in my wife asking Maddie on the 31st of December 2010 to close the account. Maddie assured my wife that the £12 late payment fee and this new amount of £4 were both Santander errors and that she would sort things out. Santander’s Andrew Hall wrote to my wife. Mr Hall is the Head of Collections Contact Centre at Santander Cards UK, he’s “a highly motivated, results focused Senior Manager with extensive Consumer Finance experience. Proven skill set in people management and process and performance improvement within Collections and Bad Debt functions”. Mr Hall, you might be highly motivated, but my wife is highly demotivated…I think you could do better, don’t you?

In between Christmas and New Year, things took a turn for the worse. Santander had the cheek to send out a Notice of Sums in Arrears letter. Of course, my wife was upset enough at the first two mistakes made by Santander, this pushed her over the edge, there were tears. How can a bank be allowed to do this? And for the measly sum of £4, created by their own error. Here’s that letter:

However, early in the New Year, we received an automated telephone call at 0820 on the 2nd of January 2011 reminding us of the “debt”. I myself spoke to some Santander guy called Kirt, who said “I can’t do nothing because of the Data Protection Act” in what I believe to be a Liverpool accent…double negatives, they suck too. So clearly Maddie hadn’t closed the account as requested a few days earlier. Kirt told me that the “telephone system” can take a few days to update itself and that we weren’t to worry about it. Incredible – the 2nd of January was a Sunday. What sort of company telephones its customers at that sort of time on a Sunday?

It seems that the Late Payment Fee is something that just gets refunded and reapplied. It won’t go away until somebody at Santander pulls their finger(s) out and accepts that there is a problem they need to sort out.

All of the telephone calls that my wife made to Santander were to their 0871 number…at a cost of 10p per minute. After a little bit of searching, it turns out that 020 8181 0000 should also work, as will 0113 280 7080. I’ll be looking to recover the cost of calls from Santander -they can’t expect us to cover the cost for their mistakes.

I was planning to switch my current account over to Santander in order to take advantage of the £100 switching fee. This made sense as my current account is with a Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) branch in England. Santander are taking over many of the English branches of RBS – I figured I would switch, collect the £100 and be in the same boat. However, this incident has taught me a lot about Santander, they’re not a bank I want anything to do with. As such, I have instigated an intra-bank switch, from my RBS branch in England, to one north of the border here in Scotland.

What’s next? Well, I hope that this blog post kicks Santander where it hurts – their stupidity and inability to rectify a simple self-made error frankly astounds me. If we make a tiny error, perhaps by going overdrawn by a single penny, the banks are the first to hit us hard. I’ve already had a short e-mail exchange with ‘CustomerServices@santander.co.uk’, who rather amazingly said “we don’t deal with the cards”! So now I’ve included ‘complaint.info@financial-ombudsman.org.uk’ in the loop.

Santander has most likely cost Evans my wife’s custom. It might not have been much, however in today’s climate, all custom is good. It seems that if Santander are to improve, it will take the likes of Evans, etc. to tell them. However, the damage has been done…

Moral of this post: avoid Santander bank. If your RBS account is with a branch that is about to be taken over by Santander, start thinking about switching – use uSwitch to help you if necessary.