The truth about packaged accounts

1 May 2009

I’m not a person who easily flies off the handle, I promise.

Still just thinking of the £14 I pay per month for my packaged account with Barclays makes me absolutely furious.
Let me explain.
I decided to go for Barclays Additions Active account in October last year after purchasing an iPhone. While I’ve heard lots of bad things about packaged accounts, the customer services assistant I spoke to in Barclays was very convincing about its benefits. I would not only be getting a lower interest rate on my overdraft, it would also offer car breakdown service, mobile phone insurance and travel insurance among other benefits.
While I haven’t got a car, I thought the mobile phone insurance and the travel insurance were worthy benefits to have.
The first time I suspected it would not be as great as I thought it would be was back in February this year when I went on a work trip to Sierra Leone.
I called up the subsidiary offering the travel insurance as part of the package, and they kindly told me that my trip would not be covered by the insurance I had. So I ended up having to take out a single policy with another company. Western Africa is not always included in the average policy so I thought fair enough.
However, when my iPhone broke down early March I was gobsmacked when I realised the mobile phone insurance that came as part of the Additions Active account was similarly useless.
Here’s the story. I contacted the provider that Barclays uses for its mobile phone insurance and they said I needed to fill out a claims form to make a claim.
While this is standard practice, I could not understand why they would have to send it to me (via the normal post) for me to fill out, then they would have about five working days to assess my claim, before sending me another form to fill out before I could send my damaged handset in to be repaired. After that they would then have another week or two to fix or replace my phone, meaning all in all it would take at least three weeks for me to get it sorted unless there were any hiccups.
Now how many people can be without their mobile phone for three weeks? Luckily, I’ve managed to borrow an old handset from work to use in the meantime, and thank god for that. Because not only did it take forever for the repair centre to return my phone, but when they eventually did it was still not fully repaired. And the repair they had done was so shoddy they had managed to break the lighting on the phone plus leave stains on the inside of the screen.
But this was nothing to the treatment I got when I rang them to get it sorted. The person I spoke to calmly told me that they needed to assess whether I had managed to break the phone again after I got it back despite the fact that I had only just received it – and that I might have to pay £50, which would be the excess if you made another claim.
This made me so furious I decided to get in touch with Barclays press office, and within minute or so (surprise, surprise), the insurance firm called me back and said they were going to post me a cheque for the full amount of an iPhone so that I could purchase a new one as they didn’t have any in stock. They also apologised profusely and said that as a valued customer they were very sorry I had to go through all this in order to get my phone fixed.
Now, I wonder if that would have ever happened if I hadn’t revealed my status as financial journalist. Probably not, which makes me sad to think that lots of customers have to endure this treatment without anyone taking any notice of them.
The cheque arrive the other day and will clear on Tuesday next week, which mean I can finally go and get my replacement phone – pretty much two months on the day since I made my claim. Now that’s what I call shoddy service!