There's a long-established tradition among people who have more than one brain-cell to rub together that if you want to do something for someone, you say to him "Would you like me to do this?", he replies "Yes, please," and then you do it.
Straightforward enough? Not for the massive Barclaycard empire, apparently. They've developed a new twist to the old tradition. They do it first, and then when you complain that you didn't want them to, they say "But it's for your own good, and we've done it now, so tough sh*t!"
Our correspondent Dxxxx Bxxxxxxxxx sent us this correspondence he's had with Barclaycard …
Customer Service Director,
Platinum Customer Services,
PO Box 5592,
Northampton NN4 1ZY
Dear Stuart Roberts,
A couple of days ago I received from you a new Barclaycard Platinum card which I had not asked for, and about which you had neither warned me nor consulted with me. To add insult to injury, going online I now find that you have suspended my existing Gold Visa card which was not due to expire until February 2009, and transferred the balance to the new card.
This will put me to the considerable trouble of altering my arrangements with other providers who take regular payments from the Gold card - and this will be very inconvenient because one of these is my wife's broadband internet provider; dealing with them is always fraught with difficulty and mishap, we could easily end up having to close one account with them and open another, and to do this we may have to extract the appropriate code from them and etc. and etc. … Even worse, we may have subscribed to various internet suppliers such as Amazon who will need to be tracked down and informed of the change.
Why should I be put to this trouble? Since I have no interest in being able to access any new facilities from you (I don't use most of the existing ones, frankly), am perfectly satisfied with your existing security standards, and do not need or want any larger credit limit, I can only assume that it's for your benefit in some way.
Consider this, please: my wife and I have been with you for a very long time indeed. We have been totally satisfied with the service. We have from time to time discussed the possibility of changing to another card provider, as you certainly aren't the cheapest. However, each time we have decided that, on the principle of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and because we couldn't be bothered to search our records to find which firms take regular or occasional payments from the card, we would stick with Barclaycard. I guess it has been about 20% loyalty and 80% inertia, and I also guess that there are plenty of other customers who would say the same.
By taking this high-handed, unilateral action you have now swept away 80% of our reasons for staying with you, and severely dented the other 20%. Can you give me one good reason why we should now continue to use Barclaycard? Can you think of any other business that would suddenly decide that what its customers were buying wasn't what it wanted to sell, and substitute something else? How would you feel if you took your Mercedes to the garage for a service and they gave you back a BMW instead? The BMW may be just as good a car, but it wasn't what you chose.
I telephoned your call centre and spoke to a very pleasant and fluent Indian gentleman who understood my problem immediately. He went away and consulted with someone, and came back to say he had logged an official complaint on my behalf, and that you would respond by phone within 24 hours. You have not done so, hence this letter.
To put it very simply, it weren't broke so you shouldn't've fixed it. You might like to consider that in this fast-moving world of change and new initiatives, there are some of us who are quite happy to keep things the way they are.
I look forward to hearing from you that you are able to reinstate my Gold Visa card so that I may continue to use your services in exactly the same way as in the past, and that when the card expires in February 2009 you will send me another with the same number, as you always have. I don't care whether it's Gold or Platinum or Girly Pink, just so long as it has the same number so I don't have to embark on a tedious and time-consuming exercise of informing businesses with whom I regularly transact.
Thank you for contacting Barclaycard to tell us about your disappointment with the service that you received from us. We try to provide a first class service for all of our customers and I'm sorry that you have had reason to complain.
Please may I take a moment to explain that, prior to the issue of your new Barclaycard Platinum card, a letter was sent advising you of our intentions to upgrade your Barclaycard account. At that time, you had the option to decline the offer; however, as we didn't hear from you, the Barclaycard Platinum card was issued.
The new card provides you with access to a range of balance transfer offers; a cheque guarantee facility of £100; a cash withdrawal facility of £500 a day; some exclusive retailer discounts and a Freephone telephone number (08009177277) should you wish to contact Customer Services.
Because we are aware that there are customers who have regular debits made to their account and that they may be caused some inconvenience due to the change of account number, we do allow customers time to make arrangements and will, for a few weeks, accept continuous authority payments and purchases which quite the old card number.
Naturally, should you wish to switch back to the Gold Barclaycard I will be happy to arrange this for you, although it will not be possible to revert back to the previous card number. Please contact our Customer Services team is you wish a replacemtn Barclaycard Gold card to be issued to you. However, if I do not hear from you within 28 days from the date of this letter, I will presume that you have decided to retain the new Barclaycard Platinum card. I am pleased to confirm that your PIN remains unchanged.
I hope this information will help you. Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience you have been caused. As a valued customer of Barclaycard, I hope that this will not deter you from using our services in future.
Customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to Barclaycard. For you information I have enclosed a leaflet detailing how we manage complaints. If I do not hear from you within 8 weeks from the date of this letter, I will assume that your complaint is resolved.
Although you may not wish to pursue your complaint, you may like to comment on how we responded to it. If so, to help us improve our service, please complete our Customer Survey on www.Barclaycard.co.uk/survey. The Category Code for this letter is A1.
Barclaycard Customer Services
Barclaycard Customer Services,
PO Box 5592,
Northampton NN4 1ZY
re your ref: XXXXXXXXXXXX
Thank you for your letter. I regret to say that your response is entirely unacceptable.
It is plainly not sufficient for you to say, in effect, that you sent me a letter advising me of your intentions so that gives you the right to do as you like. In fact I received no such letter. Had I done so I would certainly have told you that I wished no changes to be made my account.
The fact that you did not hear from me means nothing, and certainly does not entitle you to assume that I am in agreement with your proposals: I may have been in hospital, I may have been on holiday, I may be suffering from Alzheimer's, I might be in the habit of saving up my post and opening it once a year on my birthday, or perhaps the dog ate it. My daughter lives in a block of flats where it is common for other residents to steal any letter that looks as though it might contain a cheque. And sometimes the Post Office just loses things. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you all this.
I am not sure whether Barclaycard have been guilty of sharp practice, or if this is simply an act of staggering naïveté. No reputable and sensible business would proceed on the basis of a "null entry" as you have done. I receive letters from other card providers approximately three times a month, offering me one of their cards: not one of them has presumed that no reply meant they could go ahead and open an account for me anyway.
I am not interested in the added benefits of the new card. I do not require them. Had I done so, I would have asked. Nor do I wish to take out a new Gold card with a new number. That's the point - I want to keep my old card with the old number.
I note, moreover, that you persist in claiming that a null reply means something and that you are entitled to act on it - I quote: "if I do not hear from you within 28 days … I will presume …". Please do not presume anything. This is my credit card account, and I will make the decisions about it.
I repeat what I said in my last letter. I wish you to reinstate my old Gold account, with the same number so I am not put to the inconvenience of changing my arrangements with other service providers. This is the only course of action that will be acceptable to me.
I write further to the letter you have received from Michelle Benson about the recent account upgrade.
I am sorry we have been unable to resolve this matter to your satisfaction. I have reviewed your complaint and detail my findings below.
Our understanding of your complaint
Your Gold Visa card was upgraded to Platinum and the new card has a different number to your Gold card. You are unhappy that we cannot reinstate the God card and you will now have to inform several companies of the new card number.
Background to the events leading to your complaint
As you are a longstanding and valued Barclaycard customer, your account was selected to be upgraded to Platinum. A letter was sent to you explaining that you would receive a new card with a new account number.
When an account is upgraded, the card number changes automatically and it is not possible to revert to the previous card number. I appreciate that it may be inconvenient having to inform several companies of the change in card number. For this reason, transactions quoting the original card number will continue to be accepted for a month after the new card has been issued, allowing you time to contact these companies.
What we have done to resolve your complaint
Whilst I am able to offer you a transfer back to a Gold Visa card, unfortunately your card number would change accordingly.
Summary of our internal investigation
Whilst I apologise for any inconvenience our actions may have caused you, I am unable to reinstate your Gold Visa card account.
For the purposes of the Financial Ombudsman Service you may regard this letter as our "Final Response" to your complaint.
You will find more information about the Financial Ombudsman Service in the enclosed leaflet. Please note that you have six months from the date of this letter to refer to the Financial Ombudsman Service for investigation.
Assistant to Director
Assistant to Director,
Stockton on Tees TS17 6EX
Dear Nick Parker,
Thank you for your letter, which you describe as your "final response" to my complaint.
This is my "final response".
My understanding of my complaint
You closed my Gold Visa card account without warning or consultation despite the fact that for at least two decades I have always paid off the card promptly, have never exceeded my credit limit, and have been in every way an exemplary customer.
Similarly without warning or consultation you have opened a new Platinum Visa account which I don't want.
Background to the events leading to my complaint
You claim that a letter was sent to me explaining that I would receive a new card with a new account number. This is not true. I received no such letter, and I am staggered that you could be so naïve as to rely on the Royal Mail who have recently been fined £11 million for losing or damaging more than 14 million letters and packages in one year.
It is normal for businesses such as yours to write to customers offering them new services, and to ask the customer to write back to accept. You have turned this well-established principle on its head by assuming that "no reply" indicates assent. It doesn't - "no reply" can mean a multitude of things, ranging from "I'm not interested" or "I'm on holiday" to "I just died". No reputable organisation should attempt to do business on this basis.
What you have done to resolve my complaint
Summary of your internal investigation
You have apologised for any inconvenience your actions may have caused, but not for behaving in a high-handed manner or for following a flawed and, I imagine, legally suspect business practice.
For the purposes of the Financial Ombudsman Service you say I am to regard your letter as a "Final Response" to my complaint. This is tantamount to saying "We don't intend to do anything for you. Don't bother writing any more - we're not interested. You can go to the Ombudsman for all the good it'll do you - we ain't budging."
Fine. I will. And I will, of course, take my business elsewhere. Congratulations - that's one more long-standing and faithful customer lost to the competition.
Yours (well, no, actually, not yours any more),
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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