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How banks exploit time limits to block current account mis-selling claims: HSBC charged Paul for travel and breakdown cover when he didn't own a passport or driving licence

An HSBC customer who paid £800 in fees for current account perks he couldn’t use has been denied a refund — because he complained too late.

Paul Brennan is one of ten million people who have paid monthly fees of up to £25 for packaged bank accounts.

These charges cover all manner of extras, including cashback deals and extended warranty on appliances.

In Paul’s case, travel, vehicle breakdown and mobile phone cover were included for six years.

But he says he has never owned a passport or driving licence. And for the entire time he held the account he says he didn’t use a mobile phone.

The 52-year-old, from Liverpool, says he was sold the account when he took out a loan in 2007.

He says he accepted the bank’s advice at the time that the packaged account was the right one for him.

Paul says: ‘When I took out my loan, the bank manager said I should open an account with add-ons. I thought it was being thrown in as a sweetener with the loan so didn’t think much of it.’

He thought that if he were to buy a mobile phone in the future, it might turn out to be a good deal.

But six months later the monthly bank charges jumped from £6.47 to £12.95. Paul, who works as a local government administrator, says he wasn’t aware of this at the time.

By July 2013, when he closed his account, he had spent a total of £822.30 on an insurance package that he couldn’t have used.

In 2015, Paul read about a surge in customers who were mis-sold these deals by banks. At the time, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the body that settles disputes, was receiving 1,000 complaints a week.

Paul emailed HSBC to complain in June that year, but was rejected. HSBC said he could take his case to the FOS to appeal against its decision.

Paul wrote to the ombudsman in May 2016 — 11 months later. But the FOS said it couldn’t investigate because HSBC ‘objected’ on the basis that Paul had taken too long to lodge his appeal.

An adjudicator wrote: ‘HSBC has objected to us looking at your complaint because they say it was referred to us too late — outside of the time limits set by the financial services regulator.

When customers exhaust their banks’ internal complaints’ procedure, they are able to take their case to the FOS. But generally, they have only six months from the day that the business sends its final response letter. The referral should be made within six years of the event the consumer is complaining about.

Paul was within the six-year window — but by waiting 11 months, he had missed the six-month referral deadline.
Banks should write to tell customers of their referral right and how long they have to appeal the case.

Paul doesn’t remember if the timeframe was included in his letter from HSBC, but the bank says it did tell him how long he had to refer his case to the FOS.

Complaints that fall outside the official time limits can still be investigated but the company that’s being complained about has to agree to the extension.

The adjudicator explained ‘exceptional circumstances’ can include serious ill health but not if the customer was unaware of the rules or their rights.

HSBC refused to refund a customer for perks he couldn’t use because his complaint came too late
Paul admits he was lax in dealing with the case, and forgot to write to the FOS.

But he doesn’t understand why that should make any difference given that he believes he suffered a clear case of mis-selling. ‘It was one of those jobs I knew I needed to get around to,’ he says. ‘I didn’t realise that would change the outcome.’

When Money Mail intervened, HSBC gave Paul the chance to refer his case to the ombudsman for the next six months.
An HSBC spokesman says: ‘Our position on Mr Brennan’s complaint remains unchanged, but in the interest of bringing closure to this long-standing issue we have contacted him offering new referral rights to the ombudsman.

This will provide Mr Brennan with an additional six months to refer his complaint.’

Millions of customers were signed up to packaged accounts at the start of the century as banks looked for new ways to make money.

At the peak of the boom, they cost up to £17.50 a month. Halifax charged £15 a month for the Ultimate Reward account; Lloyds had Silver, Gold, Platinum and Premier accounts, from £7.95 to £25 a month; and HSBC charged up to £15 a month for its Advance account.

Some pensioners found they weren’t covered by the travel insurance offered with the accounts as they were too old.
Households without a car were paying for a breakdown policy they didn’t need. Other account holders had cover elsewhere — so were effectively paying twice for the same insurance.

Consumer expert Andrew Hagger says: ‘These accounts are poor value if you don’t use its component parts — there have been many complaints as claims firms see these as easy pickings and the next PPI- type payday. ‘For accounts opened since March 31, 2013, banks have had to ensure that customers are eligible to claim on the package insurance products.

‘Bank staff must point out if there are features you won’t need or use.’

Article taken from – This Is Money

Posted by M White on 25 Jan 2018

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