Questions Of Cash: NatWest ignored me over old account

 

Q. Both my parents have passed away. While undertaking the house clearance I came across a National Provincial bank account book in my name. It was opened for me at the age of eight and clearly intended for me to benefit when older. The bank book shows over £800 and there is no record of any withdrawals.

I provided my local NatWest branch with copies of the bank book in 2009. I received a reply from NatWest that failed to confirm that the account had been closed. I responded in July 2009 that their explanation was clearly established upon a best guess. My letter was not replied to, nor was another letter from October 2010. I have never received evidence that the account was closed. NatWest has obviously decided to ignore me. JW, Carmarthenshire

A. We have discussed this problem for several months with RBS, the parent bank of NatWest (formed by the merger of the National Provincial and Westminster banks in 1968). RBS tells us it has carefully checked its old records. These show the account was closed in 1997, 11 years after your father died and before you were aware of its existence. RBS retains detailed account information for 10 years, which it says is fully compliant with its legal obligations. Its summary records merely show the account was closed by a person using your surname.

You have requested further information regarding the account, including who was entitled to make withdrawals from the account opened in your name, but RBS no longer has this information. RBS accepts it could and should have done more to answer your enquiries sooner and more efficiently. Consequently it has transferred £75 into your account as a gesture of goodwill. But it is adamant that the account was properly closed. A spokeswoman said: "Our complaints team have now concluded their enquiries in the light of the additional information provided and have located a closing statement proving that the account was actually closed 25 April 1997. The reason for closure was given as 'no further use'.

A cheque was issued at the time to [a person with the reader's surname] with the closing balance of £4.06. All our records were computerised by the early 1970s. After that time there would be no need for customers to produce a book when making a deposit or withdrawal... We know some customers kept their passbooks as a personal record and the bank did not ask for their return... In recognition of the inconvenience caused by the delay in him receiving a full response regarding this matter, we have credited his account with £75 as a gesture of goodwill." You tell us that you are not satisfied with this – we suggest you pursue the matter with the Financial Ombudsman.

Q. My partner flew from Germany to Dublin on Christmas Eve 2010, travelling with his two young children, to visit me over the holiday. His Aer Lingus flight was delayed, causing them to wait nine hours at Hamburg airport and to spend Christmas Eve at a hotel in Dublin, instead of being at my home. They were not given any vouchers for food and drink during the delays, which is required under European Union law. My partner and I have complained repeatedly, but he has not received any compensation. MW, Ireland

A. You state that you and your partner have repeatedly provided Aer Lingus with the details of the bank account the payment was to be made into. Aer Lingus says this information was not received. When you contacted us we provided this information to Aer Lingus' media relations team to enable the payment to be made. When we checked a few days later on progress, once more Aer Lingus denied having received the account details.

We are promised that a payment for €124 (£100) has now been approved, in line with the amount requested by your partner. This should be received within the next week. It has taken us several weeks to obtain this payment and you requested additional compensation because of the continued delay.

However, Aer Lingus does not accept that the delay is its fault and has not complied with your request. A spokesman for the airline said: "Aer Lingus, in accordance with EU Regulation 261/2004, reimbursed reasonable and necessary expenses incurred for additional accommodation costs. Aer Lingus cannot accept liability for consequential costs such as car hire and recommends that any individual affected in this way contacts their personal travel insurers in order to pursue this portion of their claim."

Q. My building society's lawyer has phoned me to discuss my mortgage application. Before he will speak to me he says he requires me to answer security questions to confirm my identification. This is a terrible cheek. How am I supposed to know who he is? I should not be expected to provide security details that could open the way to someone committing a fraud against me. I put the phone down on him. I think this practice could well be illegal. CW, London.

A. We asked the Information Commissioner's Office for its view, but it does not share your opinion regarding the legal situation. A spokesman for the Information Commissioner said: "The Data Protection Act places a series of obligations on financial companies who hold and process peoples' data. This includes having appropriate measures in place to keep this information secure. Asking a person security questions to access details related to their account helps to stop unauthorised access to this information. Therefore the building society may instruct their lawyers to adopt this approach when speaking to their clients. If they do adopt this approach then it is good practice to inform their customer that these checks will be made. If the person has any doubts that the individual they are speaking to is not a representative from their building society, then they should contact the company to confirm, before handing out any of their information."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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