‘Deceased’: John Edwards had to sell pots of honey to make ends meet
The computer meltdown at crisis-hit TSB, now entering its eighth week, has not just caused chaos among customers unable to access their bank accounts, exposing them to fraudsters. It has also ‘killed off’ hundreds of its customers.
One such victim is John Edwards. For the past 60 years, he has been busy building beehives as a profession. Now aged 75, he still works as a beekeeper. He also enjoys rude health.
Yet, nearly seven weeks ago, John’s bank informed him he was dead. As TSB’s computer systems began to implode, he was deemed ‘deceased’ – one of 370 customers accidentally ‘deleted’ by the bank’s failing systems.
Having been killed off, John was blocked from accessing his bank account for a week. His state pension, normally paid into his TSB bank account, was also rejected and returned to the Department for Work and Pensions. It took more than a month of phone calls before he could get it back.
John’s extermination by bungling TSB is reflective of the continued chaos at the bank, following its suspension of 1.9 million customer accounts in the wake of a failed IT migration in April.
The upgrade was promoted as ensuring that the bank would be ‘fit for the digital age’. In reality, it was a cost-cutting move designed to save £100 million a year as TSB switched from a system run by its former parent group Lloyds to one built by its current owner, the Spanish bank Sabadell.
The Mail on Sunday has been inundated with correspondence from readers angry at the bank’s poor handling of the system failure.
TSB is still busy dealing with the fallout. Customers’ calls are not picked up promptly and software glitches regularly slow the website to a standstill. Customers have visited branches, only to discover they cannot withdraw cash as the systems are down. The TSB website says: ‘We’re working to put things right’ and ‘Please watch out for fraud.’
Here’s what to do if you are a victim of the TSB meltdown
- Complain directly to TSB, giving details of the way the crisis has affected you. Be firm and friendly – and know in advance exactly how much you would like in compensation and stick to that figure. A sum of £100 for ‘distress and inconvenience’ is reasonable. Support the demand with details of failed bank transactions, time spent on the phone and effort and money wasted on visits to the nearest branch of TSB.
- Move bank. The current account switch guarantee means that moving to another provider should be straightforward and take no longer than seven working days. Consider where you might like to go. Well-regarded providers include Nationwide Building Society, First Direct and Santander. Apply to the new bank or building society. It is then responsible for redirecting incoming and outgoing payments, and transferring money to your new account before closing the old one down.
- Go to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you believe TSB failed to handle your complaint in a way that you think is fair. Contacting this independent body will not cost you a penny and the Ombudsman has the power to demand the bank pay you compensation. For further details visit financial-ombudsman.org.uk.
Some 1,300 TSB customers have so far fallen victim to fraud as criminals have exploited the chaos at the bank. The fraudsters have been posing as bank staff, contacting customers and offering to help sort out problems, only to empty their bank accounts once they have gleaned key security information.
TSB claims that no customer will be left out of pocket due to its IT issues, but it is still struggling to handle a crisis that has led to some 100,000 complaints and a multi-million pound compensation bill. The bank could also face a class action lawsuit and a hefty fine from the City regulator.
When John Edwards, from Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, was ‘killed off’, he went to his nearest TSB branch in Louth. He says: ‘The staff looked like they had seen a ghost when I told them I had been declared dead. No one could explain how it had happened.
‘Staff spent an hour trying to tell the bank’s computer I was not dead but it refused to believe it. It took a week to bring me back to life.’
Under pressure: So far TSB chief executive Paul Pester has refused to resign. This is despite calls from MP Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the powerful Treasury Select Committee, for TSB’s board to consider his future
During this time TSB not only stopped his pension payments, but also cancelled his debit cards and bank account. John was forced to borrow money and sell jars of honey for cash so he could afford to go shopping for essential groceries.
The first he knew about his demise was an email from the nursing home that looks after his 73-year-old wife Lynne. Staff explained that a cheque he had made out to the home was being returned as he was ‘deceased’ and his bank account had been closed. Adding insult to the mortal injury, the bank has, since then, only offered £50 in recompense for its error.
John says: ‘The amount of compensation is ridiculous. I spent several hours trying to convince TSB I was not dead when they were adamant I was ‘deceased’.
‘How they managed to kill me off without a death certificate I will never know.’
Other customers accuse the bank of a hit-and-miss approach to its handling of complaints, only offering compensation if customers refuse to go away. David Edes, from Inverness, has so far refused a £111 offer of compensation for the mess that TSB left his landlord business in.
He believes the cost of the inconvenience is closer to £1,000. The 64-year-old says: ‘The compensation offer is no more than chicken feed.
‘The bank fails to factor in all the costs – the wasted time, extra travel and all the inconvenience related to not being able to access a bank account. As a retired bank manager myself I have sympathy for the TSB staff, but no time for the lack of genuine help the bank is providing.’ So far TSB chief executive Paul Pester has refused to resign. This is despite calls from MP Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the powerful Treasury Select Committee, for TSB’s board to consider his future.
He recently agreed to give up a £1.6 million ‘integration bonus’ related to the IT migration.
On Friday, TSB said it would now ‘be reaching out’ to John Edwards – corporate jargon that sounds like the bank might use a Ouija board rather than a phone to track him down. It added: ‘We made an update to his account in error and would like to apologise for any distress and inconvenience caused.’
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