Money Grouse: Savers tricked into sales call

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One distinctly underhand marketing technique is definitely not to become an Abbey habit, after vigorous protests from people affected.

Alan Hiscock, of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, received a letter from his Abbey National branch in Newcastle headed with the number of his Tessa tax-saving account. It asked him to contact the office 'regarding your above numbered account', and Mr Hiscock rang immediately to find out what had gone wrong.

'I wondered if someone had been drawing money from the account, and was very worried,' he said. 'The sales assistant told me she had sent me a letter to ensure I rang in. She wanted to give me 'free advice' about other Abbey National investment plans.'

Why had she not sent details of the various plans in the post? She told Mr Hiscock that if she had, he would probably have thrown them away as junk mail.

Mr Hiscock was not the only person to suffer. While he was away on a business trip his wife had received a matching letter - and spent a day ringing up to find out what had gone wrong with her Tessa account 'before discovering the trivial nature of the letter'.

Mr Hiscock added: 'I consider the approach to selling services whereby the customer is misled into contacting the seller to be unethical.'

Abbey National's head office is distinctly embarrassed by what has happened.

'This initiative does not fit in with our marketing rules, and we will be talking to the branch about it,' said an Abbey National spokesmen.

'It certainly won't happen again and we can only apologise to Mr Hiscock for what happened.'

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Please do not send SAEs or original documents as we cannot guarantee to deal with every letter personally.

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