Questions Of Cash: 'No one took the blame for a faulty cash machine'

Q. In January, I went to an Abbey cash dispenser to withdraw £400. The transaction was processed, but the cash not supplied. I went into the bank branch, which told me the cash dispenser was managed by Securicor. The branch said I should contact my own bank, Banca Intesa Sanpaolo in Rome, for them to get a refund. I emailed my bank branch, which told me this was not their responsibility. In February, I contacted Abbey again, which this time said my bank should investigate the matter as one of potential fraud. It added that Abbey had no responsibility. CM, Rome.

A. Abbey tells us the particular cash machine that you had problems with is classed as a "remote machine" and is therefore maintained by Securicor, not Abbey. The bank again insisted it is up to your bank branch to instigate an investigation and obtain a refund. Abbey's spokesman says: "I believe the overseas bank has made an error in suggesting they do not get involved, as the claim has to come from them." We passed this response back to you and you then made a further attempt at obtaining satisfaction from Banca Intesa Sanpaolo. This time, a different manager handled your enquiry and your refund is now being processed.

Q. In August last year, I mistakenly transferred £130 into the wrong bank account. I contacted my bank, Smile, which told me the recipient banked at Lloyds. It advised me to contact Lloyds. But Lloyds refused to deal with me, saying Smile should contact it. After three months, I was told by Smile that Lloyds was unwilling to credit my account as it was "unable to contact their customer". On the advice of the Citizens Advice Bureau, I lodged a complaint with Smile, following which I received a response from Lloyds that my previous letter had been sent to the wrong department, would be forwarded to the correct department and I would receive a response in four to eight weeks. After 10 weeks of hearing nothing, I phoned Lloyds and was told that my letter had not been forwarded, but would be sent urgently. In June, after a further three weeks, I contacted Lloyds again and after 24 hours I received a call from Lloyds stating that it was unwilling to deal with my complaint. I then went to a Lloyds branch, and was told I must get Smile to fill in a form for Lloyds to debit the money from their customer's account – and was threatened with forcible removal from the branch. Smile then told me I had been misinformed and Lloyds needed only to send a letter to their customer informing them that they were going to debit £130 from their account on a specific date. BH, East Sussex.

A. We contacted the Co-operative Bank, which owns the Smile brand. A spokesman responded: "In such circumstances, we would expect the other bank to contact their customer and request a refund. If this is not forthcoming, we would then expect them to send a letter advising the customer that the funds will be withdrawn on a specific date, then to remove the amount and return it to us. Colleagues here that action these types of requests have not come across a situation whereby the receiving bank has refused a recall of the funds before, especially when it is proven that the funds do not belong to their customer."

Lloyds has since taken a more helpful approach, saying that it has "now established contact with our customer, who has confirmed that the money was not due to them". The customer has given Lloyds permission to refund you, which it is now doing. But the bank argues that "in cases such as this, we are limited in the action we can take to retrieve money from a customer's account and we are not able to intervene in disputes between two parties".

Q.Four years ago, you suggested an interest-bearing account that could be used by treasurers of small voluntary organisations. You recommended Alliance & Leicester's Community Instant Reserve deposit account. I followed this advice and our modest funds earned a reasonable return of 4 per cent gross. From August last year, A&L reduced the interest payable and it is now a maximum of just 0.15 per cent. Can you recommend a savings account which will give voluntary groups a decent rate of return? AS, Fareham.

A. Kevin Curley, chief executive of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action – which supports voluntary bodies – recommends that small charities use CCLA. The CCLA COIF Charities Deposit Fund earns 1 per cent interest. For further information go to

Q. I am concerned that my mother – who is over 80 and has no savings – is not getting the financial support she is entitled to. What benefits might she be eligible for? LB, by email.

A. The now-merged charities Age Concern and Help the Aged have launched a national campaign called More Money in Your Pocket to help older people claim all the benefits they are owed. The charities explain: "Benefits your mother may be eligible for could include pension credit, council tax benefit, housing benefit, attendance allowance, disability living allowance and carer's allowance. Please call Age Concern and Help the Aged on 0800 00 99 66 or 0808 800 6565 – especially if you're not sure what's available to you‚ or if you haven't been able to claim money as you might be able to now. The service is free and confidential. Your local Age Concern can give you a free ben-efits check, or put you in touch with someone else who can."

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:

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