Barclays Bank, Barclays Bank, Great Little Product but the Communication Stank

I don’t have a problem with Barclays policies, but I do have a problem with the way they communicate them.

Last October I arranged a mortgage with Barclays. It was a good rate and they offered a good flexible features. Officially, the mortgage offer was valid for 6 months, but we were told by the Barclays rep. that sold us the mortgage that it would still be available after the 6 month period. We were delighted – we had a good offer on our property, and had an offer accepted on the house of our dreams. Sadly, through no fault of ours, the sale of our property fell through. We were forced to pull out of the purchase of the house we wanted. Time passed…

Finally, another offer on our property, another offer of ours accepted. Now, I quite understand that keeping a mortgage offer open indefinitaly is impractical, but I had been made a promise. Just over 6 months had passed, so I went back to Barclays for them to make good on the rep’s promises. When I called a general mortgage line, I was told that the offer had expired. Disappointed, I explained about the original promise. The lady I spoke to asked me to hold while she spoke to her supervisor. A few minutes later, I was assured that Barclays would honor their agreement and I could have the original mortgage at the original rate. All I had to do, I was told, was to contact the original rep. to verify my financial status had not changed, and to pay another £90 admin fee. I would have understood if my request had been declined, but again, I had a promise. I was delighted.

…until half an hour later when I called the person I had originally spoken to. She was very nice, recalled our previous agreement, and genuinely sounded as though she wanted to help. Unfortunately, she said, she had no authority to reinstate our mortgage offer. She explained that the offer had expired. I explained that someone had agreed to honouring the original promise just half an hour previously, and that she had told me that I could extend the offer beyond the 6 months. She spoke to her supervisor, tried to get things fixed, but ultimately failed. She suggested that I had grounds for complaint, and suggested that she initiate the complaints procedure on my behalf. I agreed.
By this point, I felt let down. I would not have minded if the offer had just expired after 6 months. What bothered me was that I had twice been told – by different people – that I could extend the original offer beyond the initial 6 month period.

Finally, someone from the complaints team called me. At this point things went downhill. Again, I was not surprised that the outcome of the conversation I had with the complaint handler was that there was nothing that could be done for me. However, I was stunned by way that my complaint was handled. The lady I spoke to:

  1. opened the conversation by getting name wrong (she used my middle name instead of my surname)
  2. did not appear in the least bit interested in my view of the situation
  3. did not clearly establish the grounds of my complaint (she assumed that it was the decision that was made not to extend the mortgage offer, but was in fact the false promises that I had been made)
  4. was not interested in what I thought would be a reasonable resolution (a partial refund of my initial fee as a gesture of good will), but just kept repeating that Barclays could not extend a mortgage offer indefinitely – something I had never, in fact, asked them to do
  5. kept telling me that she had no record of the promises that I had been made (as if that were my fault)
  6. was very abrupt, to the point of downright rudeness
  7. said that the only thing that she could do for me was send me a leaflet from the FSA.

In conclusion, Barclays financial products can be good, but sometimes their ability to communicate their policies accurately, and deal with complaints politely, falls far short of the mark.

Lessons Learned: If it is not in writing, it doesn’t exist.

A Barclays sales rep. has left a message that I should call him to talk about my mortgage needs. I doubt that I will return the call. After all, I have now arranged a mortgage with First Direct, one of Barclays competitors. I got a much better deal than I ever would have had with Barclays.


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