Imagine you were a 65-year old pensioner and sole trader, banking with a High Street bank which claimed to be the best one for small businesses like yours. One day you decide to take charge of your accounting because your previous helper has retired. You notice a couple of regular payments that you cannot identify, so you call and ask your bank to tell you what they are.
They cannot give you the answer. They are direct debits that have been in force for some time, and one of them has the name of another bank in the same group, together with an account number. Despite that, they cannot tell you what the payments are for.
So you suggest cancelling the direct debits, in the hope that the relevant companies will contact you and all will become clear. With me so far? Quite a common experience.
Bank cancels wrong D/D
Now the bank cancels one wrong direct debit. Let’s suppose it happens to be for your mobile phone account on which your business depends. Let’s suppose it was for Vodafone. The bank goes further. It recommends taking out an indemnity claim against Vodafone and proceeds to re-claim (let’s say) £2,050, a figure which includes the latest monthly bill.
Later, then the mistake is discovered, the bank puts £1,904 back in your account. Everyone is looking for £2,050, and no one notices the £1,904, which is the reclaimed amount less the latest monthly bill. Still with me?
This goes on for some time, and you get demands from Vodafone which lead to black marks on your credit file for late payment. Remember, you have done nothing wrong – it has all been your bank’s doing.
Short shrift & rudeness
Now suppose you realise what has happened and contact both the bank (let’s call it Bank of Scotland) as well as Vodafone, and try to get the error rectified, but BOS deny responsibility. Vodafone are more helpful, but in trying to get your credit file cleaned up you make the mistake of contacting the Chief Executive’s office, where you get short shrift and rudeness.
Imagine that the other cancelled direct debit resulted also in complications that I don’t want to detail here, but which created yet another black mark on your credit rating. Through no fault of your own, you now have TWO payment defaults recorded, and you cannot get a loan for your business. And the stress is making you ill because you are a pensioner living alone and having to cope with all this on your own.
Being a diligent and determined individual, you keep records of your correspondence and phone conversations, including episodes of corporate bullying, and you build up a file over 12 inches thick over a period of 18 months. Oh, did I mention that it might take that long?
Let down by Financial Ombudsman
During that time, you will, of course, have contacted the Financial Ombudsman Service who, naturally, would uphold your complaint. But what if they could not be bothered to read your file and awarded you a derisory £600 compensation? And what if, after 18 months of effort on your part, your helpful High Street bank wrote to say they would no longer reply to your letters?
It couldn’t happen, could it? Especially not with a bank that claims to be the best one for small businesses, now could it? I mean, they would really pull out all the stops to clear your credit standing and compensate you for the harm done to your business, to your credit worthiness and to your health. They would, wouldn’t they?