Money Grouse: The disappearing account

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The Independent Online
GORDON Cunningham, 79, is caught in a catch-22 situation. The former borough engineer would like to withdraw pounds 188 he deposited in a Barclays account in July 1969.

But the bank says he can not have the money because he must have taken it out already. There is no record of his having made the withdrawal. Equally, the bank replies, there is no record of his not having made the withdrawal.

It is this lack of records that prevents Mr Cunningham, from Windsor, Berkshire, from getting the money he feels is rightfully his. The blame for this state of affairs lies with a computer.

Mr Cunningham explained: 'I have had an account with Barclays since 1935. In July 1969, I paid pounds 188 into my account and my passbook registered pounds 188 and one shilling.

'A short while later I mislaid the book. Unfortunately, it did not turn up until 1992.'

Mr Cunningham went to his local Barclays branch to see about getting hold of his money. Which is where his problems started.

In 1971, Barclays computerised all customer records. Mr Cunningham's account was not one of them. When he went to the branch, a quick check showed he had no account with the bank.

The only reason why he had no account - Barclays opined - was because he must have closed it between July 1969 and 1971. If there had been money, it would still be in the bank's dormant accounts register.

Mr Cunningham protested: 'My bank book specifically says that I am not allowed to make any deposits or withdrawals without the book itself. How can I have taken out my money when the book does not say so?'

The Banking Ombudsman agreed with Barclays: 'On the balance of probabilities the account was duly closed after the balance had been paid out on an unknown date or dates on or before 1971,' a letter to Mr Cunningham states.

A Barclays spokeswoman says: 'An old passbook is not evidence of the fact that an account is still in existence. Unfortunately, there was no requirement for a person to hand in their book once they closed their account. And sometimes, nothing would be stamped on the book to denote that the account had been closed.'

She added that the computer would have recorded the fact that the account was still live by sending out statements in 1971.

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