I recently switched my bank account to First Direct and despite the seven-day switch guarantee it has been a nightmare. Only a week in I had to deal with three failed direct debits which involved lengthy calls to the likes of British Gas and BT.
First Direct, despite the guarantee, cannot give me any assurance that this won’t continue with my many other direct debits. It is blaming Bacs and a recent change to its switching processes and says there is nothing it can do. I’m anticipating a month of call centre hell as I am having to manually set up new direct debits with every company I deal with.
There is no warning from anyone about the potential problems of a switch and if I’d known there was a chance of this happening I wouldn’t have done so. I’m frustrated and angry at the time-consuming mess I have now got to sort out.
First Direct tried to be helpful and its advisers have been sympathetic but without being able to resolve it. They even gave me £30 compensation but, to be honest, I would much rather the situation was sorted out as I am time poor.
So-called “seven-day switching” was introduced by all UK banks in 2013 in a £750m systems overhaul to ensure direct debits and payments can be transferred between providers in the space of a week. The idea was to encourage people to move while giving responsibility for reorganising direct debits and other payments to the new bank, rather than the customer. Before this, switching could take 18 to 30 working days.
The guarantee means that your old account will only close when everything has been moved, while the participating banks will refund any charges that arise from mistakes. So you have been particularly let down – and the obstacle is that First Direct says that data protection rules mean it cannot deal with the companies with the failed direct debits.
First Direct (part of HSBC) tells us that the issue was the result of an error which resulted in your direct debit originator cancelling your mandate, as opposed to collecting. It is the responsibility of the new bank to take control of the situation and sort out any problems.
First Direct says: “We set ourselves high standards for customer service, and we’d like to offer our sincere apologies to KMcM for his experience. He has been protected by the current account switch guarantee which provides cover against any problems encountered as a result of a switch. We’ve apologised and offered compensation for the inconvenience.”
Bacs Payment Schemes Ltd, which owns and runs the Current Account Switch Service, says: “We understand this arose as the result of a processing error. All customers are protected by the guarantee and we understand First Direct has provided compensation.”
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