Jan. 14--J.B. writes: 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.
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.
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.
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