Money: Time is running out for Halifax shareholders who want to put their windfalls into a personal equity plan

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The Independent Online
Thousands of Halifax shareholders who have made belated decisions to ask for share certificates, or were simply confused by the wording in their guides, need to get their skates on.

The flotation may seem like it only happened a few days ago. But there are barely 20 working days left for shareholders to use their certificates to PEP the shares.

A similar story applies to prospective Woolwich and Norwich Union shareholders. If you want to PEP elsewhere, read the form sent to you carefully and make sure that you apply for a certificate well within the 42-day deadline.

By the way, don't fall for the slightly terrifying wording in the Woolwich brochure and application, which threatens all sorts of dire consequences - including heavy administration charges in the event of loss, for those who opt for certificates. One might almost think that Woolwich (bless 'em) doesn't want us to ask for them.

I was phoned this week by a bank employee asking why I am always so cynical about the financial industry. He should ask Rose Shepherd, a 89-year-old saver with Alliance & Leicester, who invested pounds 5,000 in the former building society's Gold Plus Account in 1990.

Shortly afterwards, the account was withdrawn and became "dormant". Rates were swiftly reduced until, earlier this year, her son discovered she had earned the grand sum of pounds 40.29 interest annually, at a rate of about 0.8 per cent a year.

When he complained, the neo-bank said that lists of rates paid on its accounts are on display in all branches. To his objection that she suffers from impaired vision and hearing and can barely walk, A&L's written reply was a polite and verbose variant of "tough". At least we know how they make their profits: from helpless pensioners.

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