Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday's ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winn
Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Mrs J.W. writes: I hope you can help me, or at least warn others. My son, now aged 36, has severe autism and epilepsy. When he was a baby, his grandparents bought him a £10 premium bond, and this has now won a £25 prize.
I did open a National Savings & Investments Direct Saver account in joint names, and after I explained what it was for, NS&I assured me it was fine. Now though, NS&I says its own premium bond cheque cannot be paid into this account, nor will it simply transfer the prize to this account. The cheque has to go into a bank account, and my son has none and is not capable of opening one.
What happens when money is invested with NS&I for a child who in adult life turns out to be unable to make decisions about it?
When you explained the problem to NS&I, you were asked to provide a medical report on your son, which would have cost far more than the £25 premium bond prize. So, you told me, since you could neither bank the cheque nor encash the bond, NS&I was effectively £35 better off at the expense of your severely disabled son.
This left me in a quandary too. I never expect banks and similar institutions to discuss a customer’s problems unless the customer gives written authority for this.
But because the whole point of your letter to me is that your son is not able to manage his own affairs, I could hardly ask for your son’s signature to a letter of authority that would allow NS&I to speak to me.
With this in mind, I asked officials to consider the problem in principle. What happens, I asked, when money is invested with NS&I for a child who in adult life turns out to be unable to make decisions about it?
What can any family do if the amount of money involved is far smaller than the medical and legal bills involved in unlocking the cash? And to take an extreme example, what would NS&I do if someone in your son’s situation won the top premium bond prize of £1million?
Why has cost of transferring shares shot up?
A.S writes: My wife and I had some shares with Saga, and when she passed away in January, I asked Saga to transfer her shares to me. I was told this would cost £8.50, but then I received a letter from Saga saying the price is now £89. I called Saga and was told they had ‘reviewed their costs’.
Happily, this is a case of crossed wires and not a stunning tenfold increase in Saga’s charges. Saga has told me it cannot find any mention of £8.50 in its contacts with you, and the fee of £89 only applies to anyone who does not have a Grant of Probate and wishes to use Saga’s Small Estates service.
You do have a Grant of Probate, so all you need is the transfer of your late wife’s shares. If you had been transferring the shares to a new management firm, the fee would have been £15, but as you are keeping them with Saga, the transfer is free of charge.
NS&I staff were actually more helpful than I had expected. They explained that if an investment is made for a child, it is controlled by a responsible person such as their parent until the child reaches 16. If the child is then unable to take control of the investment, NS&I will request a medical report and ask who has been legally appointed to look after the customer’s affairs.
But there is some wiggle room here. If the customer has been unable to understand such things since birth, and no major sums are involved, it is unlikely that anyone will hold a formal legal appointment to act on their behalf. And in this situation, NS&I may decide that the original responsible person can simply carry on as before.
This discretion would not go as far as applying to a high value premium bond prize, though.
Then, NS&I staff would certainly ask that the responsible adult approach the Office of the Public Guardian, the Government official with the power to appoint a ‘Deputy’ – probably the same responsible adult – to claim the prize on behalf of the bondholder and to manage it for their benefit.
So, where does this leave you and your son? Your Direct Saver account is useful for some things, including receiving the automatic transfer of premium bond prizes, but there is no counter service for depositing cheques.
I am delighted to say that after some thought NS&I staff have come up with a solution. They have decided that although your son is the bondholder, they have scrapped the cheque that was sent in his name. By the time you read this, you will have received a fresh prize cheque for £25, and this time it will be made out to you.
Parcel firm will not answer my query
B.M. writes: I sold an item on eBay which I sent via the carrier company Collectplus. I tracked the parcel, and Collectplus confirmed it was delivered and signed for. However, the buyer contacted me to say nothing had arrived. Collectplus asked its driver to describe the property where the goods had been delivered, and his description did not correspond with the buyer’s address. I submitted a claim form to Collectplus, but heard nothing, so I emailed the chief executive Neil Ashworth, but he did not respond.
Signed for: The parcel was delivered but not to the address that matched the buyer
I jumped through the same hoops as you, asking Neil Ashworth and head of marketing Catherine Woolfe to look into your complaint.
Eventually, I discovered that although their names, pictures and job descriptions were still on the Collectplus website, they had actually left the company many months earlier.
I did find someone to help, though. He told me: ‘The safe delivery of parcels is our number one priority, and we are sorry that Mr M’s experience was not up to standard.’
Collectplus has now refunded the delivery charges and has compensated you for the value of the missing goods.
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.
A customer for 55 years… and HSBC wants bills
M.B. writes: I am 75 years of age and I own a small firm that turns over about £100,000 a year. I have been a business customer of HSBC for over 20 years and a personal customer for 55 years. Now, I have received a very long-winded and intrusive form from the bank, along with letters, texts and screen messages, demanding utility bills for my business address. However, this is just a postal address, as I actually work from home.
HSBC is carrying out a long-term ‘Know Your Customer’ scheme
Like lots of small ventures, you use a business centre. For a flat fee of £35 a month, the centre accepts your mail and parcels, and provides office space for business meetings. Everything is included in the flat fee, and you are not separately billed for gas, electricity or water.
You told me that you have explained this three times to HSBC and been told that this is acceptable, only to have the requests for utility bills arrive all over again. You suspect the bank simply wants to ditch small accounts.
HSBC denies this. It is carrying out a long-term ‘Know Your Customer’ scheme, checking the accounts of all its business customers to weed out any possible financial crime such as money laundering.
However, your own experience shows that a ‘one-size- fits-all’ operation, with kitchen table businesses treated in the same way as multi-national corporations, has its drawbacks for both customer and bank.
A spokesman told me: ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience that Mr B has experienced.’ HSBC has confirmed that its review is complete, and it is happy to keep you and your business as customers.