Banks are making life difficult for people acting as attorneys and are often inconsistent in the advice they give, according to research by Which?.
In a poll in May of almost 2,908 Which? members who have used power of attorney services over the past three years, the consumer group found that one in five (20%) attorneys said banks were particularly difficult to deal with when registering a power of attorney.
This compares with almost one in 10 (9%) who were critical when registering their power of attorneys with private pension providers and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Yorkshire Bank was rated as the worst bank for registering as an attorney, with nearly a third (32%) claiming its service was poor. HSBC and Co-op Bank were joint second, with 27% saying the service was poor at each bank. More than one in five also rated all three banks as below average for communication.
In contrast, building societies performed better, with Yorkshire Building Society’s service coming top in the poll and rated highly by 85% of attorneys who used it. In second place was Nationwide Building Society, with 76% rating its service as good, followed by Coventry Building Society at 75%.
Which? researchers found that banks were restricting attorney’s access to accounts, despite the fact that they are entitled to the same access as the donor.
Post Office Money, Tesco Bank and Virgin Money each refused to give attorney’s access to online banks accounts, while Nationwide refused to issue an additional debit card for attorneys.
Poor advice over the phone
Which? also investigated 14 big banks and found that staff often gave inconsistent advice over the phone to attorneys registering their powers, limiting attorney’s access to accounts.
It criticised HSBC and TSB for offering poor advice. Callers were told over the phone that they needed to register the power of attorney in person when this is not the case.
HSBC and TSB also told attorneys they would not have access to the donor’s online banking accounts even though they are entitled to the same access as the donor.
The consumer group singled out Halifax, Lloyds, Nationwide and Santander for praise, as these were the only banks to have a specialist power of attorney team whose advice was mainly accurate and consistent.
Sarah Jackson, Yorkshire Building Society’s director of customer services, says: “Customers are often under a huge amount of personal stress when handling power of attorney matters so it’s important we do everything we can to help.
“We have a specialist team that deals with power of attorney registrations and they take great care to handle the cases sensitively and efficiently.”
Harry Rose, editor of Which? Money, adds: “Attorneys should not have to jump through hoops when dealing with banks, and should be able to rely on banks for accurate information and advice.
“Banks need to ensure staff are fully trained on power of attorney and have in place an efficient registration process for attorneys.”
Moneywise has contacted Yorkshire Bank for a response to Which?’s survey. A spokesperson at Yorkshire Bank says: "We always strive to maintain a high standard of customer service so it's disappointing to see these results. We are actively looking at how we improve our service in this area."
Find the full ratings below:
|Bank||Percentage rated as "good" when registering initial authority||Percentage rated as "poor" when registering initial authority|
|Leeds Building Society||73%||0%|
|Yorkshire Building Society||85%||3%|
|Skipton Building Society||68%||7%|
|Coventry Building Society||75%||7%|
|Nationwide Building Society||76%||8%|
|Bank of Scotland||59%||19%|
|Post Office Money||51%||23%|
Enduring Power of Attorney
Santander had no safeguards to protect my mum's accounts. My brother registered as her PoA (Enduring- joint & several). His first transaction was £2000 in cash followed by a cheque for £6000 payable to himself. Over 3 years he withdrew £40,000 in cash and made a transfer to his bank account. When I complained to Santander they said he had effectively become their customer and could do as he liked with the money. Financial Ombudsman said it was not up to Santander to 'police' my mum's accounts. The response from Santander and the ombudsman is shameful. HSBC told me to report to the police the unusual, possibly fraudulent transactions on my mum's account, including a forged cheque. HSBC refused to co-operate with the police investigation and said there was no evidence of fraud. Ombudsman said transactions were consistent with previous banking history despite use of a newly ordered visa/debit card, payments from an invoice finance company used by my brother's business, transfers to his business account, visa payment of 1p to his business, a/c overdrawn for the 1st time in mum's banking history, cash always withdrawn at ATMs even when mum was in hospital, visa payments in places mum never used and a direct debit set up in my brother's wife's name but using mum's bank details for payment. Shame on HSBC who refuse to discuss the case with me but I will not let it rest- someone is responsible for almost £70,000 being taken by my brother and he has not been asked for an explanation.