It seems that someone up there has decided I haven’t done enough shouting lately. If I’m not yelling at the family of rats Hell bent on colonising the kitchen, I’m tearing my hair out as I try to explain to Vodafone that one calender month is not really anything like seven working days. And then today, I get a letter from Northern Rock – with whom I opened an ISA just two months ago – informing me that my account, entirely unbeknownst to me, is now ‘closed issue’. What follows is an account of the conversation I had with one of their ‘customer care’ reps:
Me: ‘Hello. I have received a letter telling me that my account is now ‘closed issue’, and that I can no longer make deposits into it. This seems ridiculous as I only opened the account with you two months ago.
NR: Yes, this is the case.
Me: Right. And why is this?
NR: It’s a limited edition account.
Me: And what does that mean?
NR: That means that the account may only be open issue for a limited period of time.
Me: Does that not strike you as the sort of thing customers might need to know?
NR: Oh, but you do. In the terms and conditions. Which you will have been given.
Me: I see. I’m sure that you can appreciate that most people do not have the time to trawl laboriously through pages and pages of terms and conditions. I guess most people assume that when they open a new account, it will be active for more than two months. And I guess that if this is not the case it might be the sort of thing that should be brought to the customer’s attention in BOLD FLASHING TEXT, rather than buried in a pile of documents in size 6 font, before they sign anything. What are your thoughts?
NR: It tells you in the terms and conditions.
Me: Does it tell me how long the account will be active for, in these terms and conditions?
Me: Right, so what decides the length of the account’s active status?
Me: So, to surmise, you’re telling me that I signed up for an account which could, at any given point, be closed, because the wizards in your marketing department say so?
Me: And the only way I learn that this has happened is because I get a letter from you telling me that my latest deposit has bounced?
NR: Yes. It’s in the terms and conditions.
Me: Would you have sent a letter informing me of this change, had I not tried to make a deposit?
NR: No. It’s in the…
Me: TERMS AND CONDITIONS. I KNOW. YOU DID SAY. Could you tell me the balance of my account presently, then?
NR: Yes, it’s £XXX
Me: Well then why does my online statement say that it’s £XXY?
NR: Oh. Dunno. Let me put you on hold.
*Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 plays. I smash my head repeatedly off the desk, then give up holding*
Brilliantly, as I’m now not eligible to open a new ISA in this tax year, should I choose to transfer the balance into a different ISA I will be penalised. By £7.35, to be precise. In the two months my money was in this account, it earned £6.45 interest. So in the long-run, it’s actually cost me money to bank with Northern Rock.