NS&I ignored non-internet savers before making the decision to do away with Premium Bond checks in the mail, insider reports reveal.
The savings giant is accused of abandoning older customers in its quest to enforce price orders to save money and paper.
Now, Money Mail has discovered that the bank has only consulted customers with an email address about the change – disapproving millions of older savers.
Charities and critics accused NS&I of forcing older customers online to save more than £ 4 million a year – and called for the decision to be reversed
National Savings and Investments (NS&I) has come under fire since it announced the move in September last year, instructing savers to reach out to provide their bank details.
It came in the midst of a customer service outage at the government-backed bank, and concerned savers had to wait an average of 20 minutes to talk to someone.
Charities and critics accused NS&I of forcing older customers online to save more than £ 4 million a year – and called for the decision to be reversed.
Money Mail, with the help of the Freedom of Information Act, pulled out the reports that NS&I bosses used to make the decision.
Among them is an online survey that excludes the customers who, most likely, most likely objected.
In a report to the retail committee of NS&I, researchers presented results of a survey of customers with an email address registered with the bank. But they cautioned that the poll was “likely not a reflection” of the views of savers without an email address registered with NS&I.
The 2015 survey still showed that as many as one in four savers would not be happy if they had to receive all paperwork electronically. It also turned out that one in three would rather receive documents by post than online.
Still, NS&I went ahead and refused to allow customers to receive prize checks by mail.
I missed out on £ 450 in online pricing
Mark Courtney had no idea he had won hundreds of pounds in Premium Bond awards
A Premium Bond saver missed 17 prizes worth £ 450 after NS&I messed up its bank payments.
Mark Courtney, 51, has held premium bonds for over 20 years, but opted to have prices deposited directly into his account four years ago.
But in June 2019, he hadn’t won any awards since his move. When he logged into his NS&I account, it was found that he had won 11 awards – worth £ 300 in total.
None of them had been deposited into his account and he had not received any emails stating that he had won. Mark, of Daventry, Northamptonshire, did not receive price notifications for 18 months thereafter.
But when he logged into his account in December, he discovered that another six – worth £ 150 – had not been paid.
Mark says: “It is irresponsible for NS&I to allow people to receive awards in this way.”
NS&I says payments were blocked due to additional security checks when he was unavailable by phone.
A spokesperson said, “It’s not common for customers to have trouble receiving Premium Bond awards.”
More than 820,000 savers in their 80s and 90s have invested approximately £ 14.2 billion with NS&I. And less than half of the over-75s are internet users, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says: “We know that a significant portion of the elderly population is not computer literate, so the fact that this large group of NS&I customers has been overlooked means the survey is fatal.
It wouldn’t be the first organization to make this mistake – but after making it, the company has a responsibility to face it, interrupt the proposed move to online claims, and look for a much more representative range of customer images. ‘
NS&I has so far only postponed the move until spring, when it can handle the calls better.
Chief executive Ian Ackerley admitted last week that making the announcement during the customer service crisis had been unwise, but declined to come back.
NS&I now only allows the most vulnerable customers to receive prize checks by post. Until now, only two were allowed to keep them.
It has said that simply ‘dislike it’ is not enough reason.
Premium bonds are the country’s most popular savings product. They give more than 20 million savers access to a prize draw each month instead of paying interest.
Cash is paid out at an amount equal to 1 percent interest and prices range from £ 25 to £ 1 million. The prize orders have been sent by post for over 50 years.
Last year, five million savers chose to have their prices delivered. After eliminating the checks, NS&I told savers they could have the prize money automatically reinvested or register online and provide details of a bank account where the prize money could be paid.
But savers soon learned that they couldn’t register for price alerts unless they had an email address or a cell phone.
A spokesperson for NS&I said last month more than 21,000 savers told the bank that they do not have a mobile phone or e-mail address and that they will receive a price notification by mail.
He added: “NS&I has a robust exceptions policy, enabling us to meet the needs of vulnerable and digitally excluded customers.
While we realize that some older customers will be less confident online, our call center agents will be available to support customers who may not have access to a cell phone or email address or require support when we resume the planned price payout change . with online services if they choose to use them. ‘
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