Friday, 13 June 2008

Complain to Spain

The story so far: Regular readers will know that I have been having some bother with my bank. Abbey recently came bottom in the BBC Watchdog programme's customer survey of UK banks. Abbey's response was dismissive to put it mildly. I wrote to the Chief Executive to complain their high handed approach would damage my investment in the business - and took the opportunity to complain about my branch.

Senior Customer Resolutions Manager Rachel Dimond wrote back and since then I have made sure she knows about all the problems I encounter at Abbey - like when they shut the branch because the key holder doesn't turn up for work (read the post here).

Currently top of my list of complaints is Abbey's Cash ISA. In April they advertised a new Direct ISA issue 2 - paying a market leading 6.25%. I had the old Issue 1 paying 5.75% so on 9th April I phoned to switch. I was told it would take 7-10 working days.

45 working days later - yes two months - I am still waiting for written confirmation the account has been switched, so I don't know what rate of interest my savings are earning. I still have the same account number and this concerns me. A month ago I asked Ms Dimond to investigate. Three weeks ago she told me there was a backlog of 700 ISA's waiting to be processed. If I didn't hear anything in 7 - 14 days I should get back in touch.

Generously I gave Abbey a whole 15 working days - including an allowance for the recent bank holiday before phoning Ms Dimond again today. She is surprised I haven't heard anything, and promises to chase it up. I'm infuriated by her dismissive attitude - she is a Senior Customer Resolutions manager - isn't her job to resolve problems? 'I resolve lots of complaints every day' she responds. 'Which Board director can I write to about this?' I ask. It doesn't matter who you write to, your letter will be forwarded to me. I deal with all executive correspondence'. I ask her if Abbey subscribes to the Banking Code - it does, and whether she considers a delay of 45 working days acceptable - she doesn't. She promises to phone me back...

Today's mail brought notice of Banco Santander's Annual General Shareholder's meeting. Its to be held in Spain later this month. Santander own Abbey. The letter is signed by Santander's chairman Emilio Botin. He is one of the world's most successful bankers - and richest men. He took the bank over from his father, and his talented daughter looks likely to succeed him.

So Ms Dimond says any complaint I make to Abbey will simply end up on her desk. Certainly my letter to the UK Chief Executive did. So I get to thinking - what happens if I email my complaint to Santander'
s Chairman? This is a challenge too good to pass up. Usually I'm expert at working out email addresses but Senor Botin presents a problem. Visiting Santander's corporate website I discover his full name is:

Mr. Emilio Botín-Sanz de Sautuola y García de los Ríos

This presents a bewildering number of email address options. The email style appears to be, so I try ebotin@gruposantander but it bounces straight back. Eventually I fill out the contact us form - which has a pull down menu to mark for the 'attention of the Board'.

An email pops back confirming receipt.

I'll let you know if one of the world's most successful bankers cares more about his customers than Abbey does.

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