Migrant Workers Sefton Community claims Barclays and HSBC are not making people from overseas aware of their free bank accounts – an issue Barclays claims is now ‘resolved’. Tony McDonough reports.
High street banking giants Barclays and HSBC are today accused of mis-selling premium paid-for accounts to 1,000 Merseyside migrant workers instead of offering them free accounts.
Migrant Workers Sefton Community and Southport Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh have sent strongly-worded letters to Financial Authority and Financial Ombudsman highlighting the issue.
They claim “at least” 1,000 migrants who came to Southport to work from other parts of Europe were not being offered the industry standard free current accounts by banks.
They say they were instead automatically placed on high-cost accounts as a result of migrant workers not being able to communicate effectively.
However, Barclays have responded claiming this was an “historic issue” that has now been resolved and HSBC said it had received very few complaints.
In its letter to the Financial Ombudsman, Migrant Workers Sefton Community, a registered charity in the town, says: “I am writing to ask if you will look into issues of barriers, obstacles and difficulties that I have dealt with over the last seven years as a case worker in a small registered charity in Southport.
“Clients had complaints about high street banks providing them with premium accounts and not offering them free accounts due to language difficulties.
“HSBC and Barclays banks are unresponsive and unhelpful which in turn impacts on our charity’s very limited resources to fight for justice for clients.”
And in his letter to the Financial Authority, Mr Pugh added: “If it is accepted that there is a real problem then there would be a further need to engage with that organisation in respect of their experience of the nature and frequency of cases, and the responses from different banks.”
Migrant Workers Sefton Community co-founder, Eileen Saunders, told YBNews: “The systematic failure has meant that clients have been exploited by not being offered free current accounts.”
The charity is also battling with high street banks on behalf of migrant workers for what it claims are other mis-sold products such as high interest loans and insurance premiums.
In a statement Barclays told YBNews: This is a small historic issue from 2012 that has now been resolved.
“Any customer who wants to move to a fee free account is able to do so.”
Offering a fuller reply, HSBC said complaints about is Passport account for migrant were “extremely low”- around 0.1% of accounts opened.
It said where a complaint is received it is thoroughly investigated.
The statement added: It is of the utmost importance that customers have products that are appropriate for them.
“Our customer advisors were trained to carry out a full review before providing customers with current account options, including offering them a Basic Bank Account. This would be the case regardless of their background.
“Our Passport account provided customers with a number of benefits for £8 a month including competitive money transfers, a Western Union gold!+ card, a mobile phone SIM card and access to relocation support.”