Before the holiday posts begin in earnest, a little word on credit cards.
I came back from holiday to find my July credit card bill from GE Money. Not an amazing occurrence - such things happen all the time.
This time was different for it featured a "Late Payment Charge" and a wad of interest. Which rather annoyed me, because I'd just set up a direct debit for the account so that every month, the full balance would be paid off. When it comes to credit cards, I'm the annoying person that the banks hate because I always - and I mean always - pay off my bill. Only once have I not done and that was because I accidentally sent the money to the wrong credit card account.
Having set up my direct debit, I got a nice letter proclaiming all was set up and then my June credit card bill had come proclaiming the money would be taken out automatically on 12 July. So I naturally left it at that, as naturally you would.
Which is why I was a little stunned to come back from holiday and find that on my next bill, not only had the money not been taken from my account, but that they'd decided to charge me interest and a late fee for not paying on time!
First thing I did was check the direct debit instructions on the current account, and sure enough, there it was listed amongst the many other direct debits. In other words, it was all set up and happily fine.
I phoned with a hint of intrepidation (and indeed prepared for a fight) and got through to a really friendly and helpful person who said it should be easy to sort out, but because the issue was outside his control, he had to pass me other to the Collections department.
Which was when the fun started. I was basically told that I had filled in my account details wrong - putting three 4's in a row instead of 2. Which seemed a little implausible because the Halifax had happily set it all up at their end.
Could I get this bloke to accept that? Not one chance. It took me 15 minutes or so before he'd even agree to drop the late fee, and it physically took me shouting down the phone at him - having to talk over him - threatening to close the account (and indeed at one point calling GE Money f---ing farcical) before he'd drop the interest.
But hey, lets assume I had filled in the form wrong. Which was 2 months ago incidentally. If they did, why did they not phone me to tell me it was wrong? Why did they send through two statements proclaiming they'd take money out of an account which (according to them) didn't exist? One simple phone call to me saying "Look, we think there's an error on this direct debit mandate" and all would be fine. But no. Nothing. Presumably because they're a nice bunch of con-artists who'd rather you didn't realise that you were being charged interest and late fees, and would rather you just paid it instead.
Had I filled in the form wrong? Well actually, just checking the direct debit confirmation letter I got a few moments ago (several hours after I hung up on them), and I found out that quite frankly, the bloke from "Collections" (who conveniently never gave his name) had been lying through his teeth at me. I had never given my account number with three 4s in it at all. In fact its sat there in black and white in front of me - completely correct and 100% accurate. What he'd told me was just frankly completely and utterly incorrect.
To add to all the fun as well, the fact that my statement appeared to have two different interest charges on it - whilst their system listed only two. Only when I got off the phone and got a calculator out, did I find out that actually they're right, and that £1.23 "Deferred Interest" was actually included as part of the overall interest charge. For some unknown reason, that £1.23 appears in the transactions in the column, making it look like an extra item - something which caused even more "fun" which the stubborn bloke from "Collections"
All in all I spent 30 minutes on the phone in agro and still they wouldn't accept that they'd screwed up. Oh no. As far as they were concerned, I'd filled in the details wrong and the direct debit couldn't be taken. Never have I been sat on a phone call so long and been so convinced that the person on the other end of the phone was lying through his teeth.
Never have I found dealing with any financial organisation such a stressful, annoying experience. Which is why I'm letting you all know. Needless to say I'm about to write a very stroppy letter to them - especially when their own incompetence meant that my credit card had been blocked due to "non-payment" and I had it refused at Sainsburys. However to have someone downright lie to me is frankly unacceptable.
Still there is one small victory (besides agreement to get all the charges removed from the account - which better bloomin' happen). GE Money would prefer you to complain via their 0870 number. No chance. Thanks to saynoto0870.com, I found out that if you phone 0800 915 2234 - their credit card activation line - you'll happily get through to one of their agents who doesn't bat an eyelid. I may have been on the phone for 35 minutes, but hey, they picked up the bill...