I am retired and living in Spain. HSBC is giving me nightmares and causing immense financial problems.
Following an HSBC systems glitch, my accounts were blocked, leaving me with no access and unable even to make minimum credit card payments. Talking to the bank is a waste of time. Nobody knows anything or will tell me a thing. J.B
Tony Hetherington replies: You live in Spain but your retirement income comes from Britain and goes into your HSBC account. Each month you transfer money to Spain to cover bills and living expenses, so finding your accounts had been blocked did not just mean you were unable to pay your credit card bill – it meant you were rapidly running out of money for everyday expenses such as food and utility charges.
COSTA DELAYS: The bank apologised and made a £250 goodwill payment
You spoke to HSBC and were told it would send paperwork to unblock your accounts, but this would take ten days. Three weeks later, nothing had arrived. You wrote a letter of complaint, but there was no reply.
You called the bank’s helpline on three occasions, only to hear a recorded message about waiting times. Your fourth call got through, but it was 15 minutes before you could speak to a human being. You asked to speak to a supervisor, which meant holding on for a further 20 minutes. She was sympathetic and said she would arrange for fresh paperwork to be sent to you. It did not arrive.
I asked staff at HSBC’s head office to investigate, find out what had gone wrong, and why your accounts were blocked. You had told me that the problems began when you tried to make a transfer online and the bank rejected it. You eventually managed to complete the transfer by way of an internet browser that you rarely use. In the wake of this, you found you could not log on again.
HSBC appears to have treated your use of this browser as an attempt to reset your login details, even though you were not asking for this. From that point on, your new attempts to get online access failed the bank’s security checks. Customer advisers should have been able to explain this and sort it out, but the bank says there was ‘miscommunication’.
For your part, you have accepted you entered incorrect security details. But this does not explain why nobody could tell you what had gone wrong, how it could be put right, and why two lots of documents that were supposedly sent to you both failed to arrive.
You summarised this pretty well, telling me: ‘When things go right, everybody is happy, but when things go wrong and problems are urgent, HSBC’s systems do not have the ability to respond and solve those problems. The systems are designed for HSBC, not the customer.’
The bank has spoken to you, apologised, and has put things right. HSBC has also credited you with £250 as a gesture of goodwill.
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST CURRENT ACCOUNTS
End of the road for dodgy car engine repair firm
T.S. writes: My car’s engine developed a major fault in March 2015. I found Exchange Engines Limited online and it quoted £1,850 to rebuild the engine.
Repairs took six weeks and when I collected the car there was a fault after just five miles of driving. I got no response from Exchange Engines so had the car repaired locally and sent it the bill.
I received no reply so issued a county court summons and won £2,240, which was not paid. I have since received an email from JBA Advisory Limited, telling me Exchange Engines is in liquidation. I have requested more information but have yet to receive a reply.
Tony Hetherington replies: JBA Advisory is a private company that aims to trace assets of insolvent businesses on behalf of creditors. Its boss Lee Baker told me he believes independent practitioners can do a better job than the Government-run Insolvency Service at getting the directors of failed companies to pay up.
JAILED: Paul Dockerill, pictured, got four and a half years
That said, I doubt if he could squeeze a penny out of the people who ran Slough-based Exchange Engines. They set up the company after an earlier business they ran – First Choice Engines Limited – attracted hundreds of complaints. They were not just giving poor service to motorists, they were operating a scam. Customers complained that after the engine was taken out of their car, the price for repairs would skyrocket. If work was completed, it was shoddy.
Some motorists were told their cars were beyond repair, only to see the crooks riding round in them.
Anyone who complained was intimidated or threatened.
Last April, four men from the same family were convicted of fraud in relation to the car firms. Ringleader Paul Dockerill, 51, from Weybridge in Surrey, was jailed for four and a half years.
Two of his sons were also jailed, another received a suspended sentence.
Exchange Engines Limited was closed down by the High Court with no recorded assets.
51% of Lloyds’ new daily fee on overdrafts
D.S. writes: There does not seem to have been much reaction to the decision by Lloyds Bank to introduce a ‘new daily overdraft fee’ of 1p per day for every £7 of overdraft.
I phoned the bank and asked if I was correct in calculating this to be a 51 per cent annual percentage rate. The lady who answered did not disagree, but she insisted there was no such rate because the fee is charged daily.
Tony Hetherington replies: The new system came into force two months ago but was announced last July.
Your arithmetic is absolutely right, assuming that a customer has an unchanged overdraft that lasts a year. Anyone in this position would be well advised to borrow elsewhere.
Even a credit card is likely to be cheaper. Of course, most people who have an overdraft see it fluctuate, and Lloyds told me: ‘More than nine in ten will either be better off or unaffected financially by the changes.’
For example, the bank says its typical overdraft is around £450. Before the change, a ‘classic’ current account customer who went overdrawn for a week to the tune of £450 would be charged £7.49, but under the new scheme they will pay £4.48. The one in ten who could be worse off should get out their calculators and start shopping around.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
Time’s up as watch firm goes into liquidation
STOPPED: Paragon Time Trading has £417,220 liabilities
A company whose shares were illegally sold to the public has collapsed into liquidation with around £400,000 unaccounted for.
Paragon Time Trading Limited offered shares at 60p each, claiming the cash would be used to buy luxury watches that would be rented out to customers who wanted a flashy timepiece for a special occasion.
Since last August we had warned that one of the company’s two directors could not be traced, and there were question marks over the number of customers it claimed it had.
Worse still, the shares were marketed unlawfully, through cold calls and with false claims, by a separate firm, IFRC Consultants Limited, which also calls itself Incrementum Funding.
The firm was not licensed by watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority, so its marketing efforts were a criminal offence. I also exposed one of its salesmen, Spencer George, as a previous peddler of worthless carbon credit investments.
Paragon boss Richard Ludgate has now put the company into liquidation. An initial statement of affairs is due to be published by Companies House.
This will show that according to Ludgate, the company has no assets, and liabilities of £417,220, including £382,120 raked in from investors. The figure is likely to rise as more investors come forward.
The watchdog took no action to halt the share sales at an early stage, despite being offered evidence by The Mail on Sunday.
An investigation has now been opened by the City of London Police.