Case versus the English banking system

There’s a sad coda to the previous story about the missing railway ticket and my father’s dealings with officialdom.

Nearly 50 years on from the train journey, father was in the last year of his life, and only just managing to hang on. His well-structured and minutely-managed financial affairs were growing harder and harder to keep up with, and the world was a more impersonal and less understanding place than during most of his working life.

It seems he had a credit card that he hadn’t used for some years, but there was one direct debit on it each year – the TV licence renewal – which he paid as soon as the statement came in. After some years of this minimal use, the bank wrote:

“In our most recent review we noted that your account has been particularly well managed and have therefore increased your credit limit to £1,000.”

But this was the year that he became bedridden, and simply couldn’t keep up. The TV licence was paid automatically, but he missed paying the card off. There was a five pound minimum monthly payment due each month, and for some reason, when the third reminder came in, he didn’t pay the whole balance, just the minimum payment. But by that time it had increased by another month’s worth of five pounds, so he was still in arrears, triggering another round of reminders and demands.

These reminders are quite impressive. The first one reads:

“I notice that we have not received a payment on your account. I feel sure that this is an oversight. However, as your account is a monthly credit facility it is essential . . . .etc”

The next one, ten days later, is a little more assertive:

“I am concerned to note that despite previous requests, you still have not made a payment to your account. etc.”

A month later:

“Please contact this department immediately to discuss the position on your credit card account.”

Then they let rip with both barrels: (this is for just a £15 overdue payment)

 “This is a default notice served under Section 87(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

“In relation to the agreement . . . you have failed to make the necessary monthly repayments.

“If the payment is not made on or before the date advised, the bank may

(a)     terminate the agreement

(b)     demand the return of all cards issued on your account

(c)     demand repayment of the outstanding balance on your account and commence legal proceedings against you

Additionally we will

(a)     cancel any credit card repayment protector

(b)     award no further air miles points to you

(c)     withhold renewal of your cards

If you have any difficulty in paying . . .  you may apply to the court . . .”

This was sufficiently loud and clear to get payment of the overdue amount (but still, inexplicably, not of the full balance), and so next month the cycle started again, leading up to a second ultimatum and, this time, full payment, clearing the balance to zero.

A month later, over the same signature as the reminders and default notices:

“As part of our commitment to customer service we regularly review our account credit limits. I am delighted to be able to increase your credit limit on your card to £1,200.”

In the next few months, now with others helping my father, the TV licence was once again renewed, paid for promptly, the credit card was cancelled and the account closed. Only weeks later, my father passed away.

Six weeks later, a statement arrived showing the credit card annual renewal fee of £12.



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