Of all the banks and building societies to penalise customers who don’t use the internet and can’t get out and about easily, Nationwide was near the bottom of my list of suspects.
Yet that is precisely what it has doing by scaling back its telephone banking service.
From October 8, you will no longer be able to call Nationwide to pay your gas bill or to move money to a savings account at another bank.
Your only option will be to visit one of its 700 branches or use online or mobile banking.
From October 8, you will no longer be able to call Nationwide to pay your gas bill or to move money to a savings account at another bank
For many, this will mean a significant disruption. Some may find it impossible to pay bills.
When we asked Nationwide how it justified its decision — especially given that HSBC, NatWest, Barclays, Santander and Lloyds all still offer telephone payments — the building society insisted it wasn’t a ploy to save money.
Fewer than 2,000 people use the service, a spokesman said, so it was deemed surplus to requirements.
What an insult to those 2,000 customers, many of whom will be frail and vulnerable. Why not just keep the phone line open for the few if it’s so inexpensive?
This isn’t the first time I’ve been disturbed by Nationwide’s cold treatment of customers. I worry that somewhere along the road to challenging the Big Five banks, Britain’s biggest building society has taken a wrong turn.
Take the £2.3 million total pay packet handed to chief executive Joe Garner last year. His income included a jaw-dropping £217,000 in perks.
That’s £595 a day — almost as much as Nationwide’s retired customers receive from their state pensions in a month. Sadly, just one in ten members voted against his package at the company AGM last week.
Meanwhile, the building society is busy slashing its miserly savings rates.
A month ago, it cut some of its rates on Isas, easy access accounts and children’s accounts by as much as 0.6 percentage points.
Mr Garner has said he wants Nationwide to be considered a ‘national treasure’ on par with the NHS. Its marketing claims the company is ‘on your side’ and ‘run for the benefit of members’.
But the more time passes, the more Nationwide looks just like the big banks that put the enrichment of executives ahead of the wellbeing of customers.
It’s time that Nationwide harked back to its origins in 1846 Wiltshire as a way for ordinary people to save and borrow money.
That means offering consistently good deals and the sort of reliable service you rarely get at banks.
As for Mr Garner’s pay, by my calculations, he takes home about £1 a minute in expenses — which sounds like an ideal compensation rate for customers forced to queue in branches to pay bills.
A big thank you to the six MPs sticking up for savers denied the right to cash in their pensions.
It’s a significant step forward in our long-running battle for justice. Badger your local MP to join the crusade. Go to yourpensionyourchoice.co.uk to download a template letter.
For a version you can send to the Chancellor, who holds the key to reform, visit thisismoney.co.uk/annuity-template.
Philip Hammond is under pressure and can save his job by getting pensioners on side. Helping millions access their pension savings more flexibly would be a terrific start.
It can be frustrating when a campaign takes a while to achieve results, but that’s no reason to hoist the white flag. With MPs on board, we may yet convince Mr Hammond to launch a consultation on ending this scandal.
When a criminal uses your bank card for an online shopping spree without your knowledge, it can end up feeling like a victimless crime.
Your bank nearly always covers any losses, so what’s the problem? Well, the billions it costs banks to refund everyone ultimately get passed on to us all in the form of worse interest rates and service.
Google, Facebook and the rest must launch a crackdown. As we reveal today, a criminal underworld is operating with impunity.
The internet giants are far too powerful and could at least use some of it for the greater good.