One of NatWest's disgruntled customers votes with his feet

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I first noticed an extra monthly payment for National Insurance being taken from my National Westminster Bank account in May last year. I didn't query it immediately because I wasn't sure exactly how the DSS operates direct debits. But the deductions continued, so I contacted the bank and was told that the payments were on behalf of a Mr Watson.

The manager was full of apologies, saying the DSS would put it right. I suggested it was the duty of the bank to refund direct debits made in error ( pounds 116 in my case) and followed it up in writing (first lesson: always get things in writing).

The manager wrote back. 'I gather the DSS have tried to place the blame on this branch for these entries but I am sure that the problem has occurred as a result of mis-keying at their end. Having said that, there is little point in apportioning blame at this stage'.

The debits stopped but despite phone calls the pounds 116 had still not been refunded after two months. Another letter to the manager produced the response: 'I am surprised that the DSS have not refunded the funds, which quite clearly were claimed in error by them. I am now writing a strong letter to the Department and in your next statement you will see a refund for these direct directs (sic) and the resultant charges.'

The pounds 116 was duly credited, but no refund of charges. Nearly five months elapsed before the charges were finally credited in full. The manager concluded his final letter with the words: 'Thank you for bringing the matter to my attention.'

I closed the account.

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