READERS' LIVES: A case of cruel Britannia?

Building society membership rights ... pension compensation. Your queries answered

IN JULY 1995 our mortgage with Abbey Life was transferred to the Britannia Building Society as part of an arrangement between the two companies. Although Britannia now holds our mortgage, it has denied us membership rights. Our mortgage is run through a separate organisation, the Britannia Mortgage Company Number One Limited. Building societies, including Britannia, are emphasising the benefits of mutuality, so why should they prevent a customer having rights to membership and benefits? I have written to Britannia twice but don't feel I have received a reasonable answer.

JV, Birmingham

Don't blame us, says Britannia: "Our hands are tied". Under the Transfer of Mortgages code of practice, agreed with the Building Societies Commission in 1989, societies are obliged to make it absolutely clear that "the borrower will have no membership rights in the parent society". The letter sent to you in July 1995 did state that the transfer would "not attract borrowing members" rights in the Britannia Building Society.'

However, under the Building Societies Act 1997, societies can in future offer full membership rights to borrowers whose lender is acquired by a building society. This is not likely to come into force until the autumn. Societies may use it to extend membership to borrowers in future acquisitions of other lenders' mortgage business. But why shouldn't it be extended to all existing borrowers? You should pursue this with Britannia later in the year.

Alternatively, you could ask to have a mortgage direct with Britannia, in the same way that any borrower can remortgage. Unfortunately you would pay the usual administration and valuation costs, even though Britannia (through its subsidiary) already has all the paperwork. That seems hard to justify.

Interestingly, another aspect of the 1997 Act is that building societies will be much more restricted in their ability to offer so-called "deposit accounts" - the technical description of accounts that don't confer membership rights. Don't be alarmed: most building society savings accounts are "share accounts" and confer full membership rights. Check with your society about the status of your account.

Britannia will be writing to existing customers whose accounts only have deposit status. These will be invited to become members. For Britannia's loyalty scheme, membership will be assumed to have run from the date the deposit account was opened. That's the attitude you'd expect from a society committed to mutuality. Naturally, you'd expect the same for borrowers, so keep questioning Britannia.

Like your reader from Derbyshire (31 May) I have had trouble assessing the compensation offered on poor pension advice. My case has dragged on since 1994, and I have been unable to find an actuary in the North- west willing to look at my pension position.

PW, Lancashire

The Association of Consulting Actuaries - ACA - is aware that not all its members offer the service you want. It has compiled a list of members who will definitely look at pension compensation: ask specifically for this list. Contact the ACA, 1 Wardrobe Place, London EC4V 5AH, telephone 0171-248 3163.

The advantage of using a firm near your home or work is that you can make a personal visit if necessary, but it is quite possible to do it all through the post. So be prepared to use a firm elsewhere in the country. You may want to shop around: a more distant firm may be cheaper or offer a more appropriate service.

Like most professional services, actuaries don't come cheap. Some firms hope to get a lot of pension mis-selling work and have set up deals and special systems. For example, one firm may charge a flat fee, say pounds 150 plus VAT. It sounds a lot, but remember what's at stake.

Other actuaries may charge on a time-spent basis, in which case you should try to get a rough idea of costs first. Get all the documentation and information in an accessible form to make it as easy as possible for the actuary, to avoid any mistakes and to speed up the process.

q Write to the personal finance editor, `Independent on Sunday', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL and include a phone number, or fax 0171-293 2096, or e-mail i.berwick@independent.co.uk. Do not enclose SAEs or any documents you wish to be returned. We cannot give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'