Bad customer service from Halifax – a rant

SimonGeneral25 Comments

I know this is a bit off-topic, but once in a while I get so frustrated by my experience dealing with a company that I feel compelled to share it here.

So please forgive me the rant that follows in the hope that it will make someone else in a similar position benefit from my experiences!

Back in January I wanted to open new bank accounts for our two boys – and the Halifax Children’s Regular Saver seemed to be one of the best offers around so we decided to go for it.

So on Tuesday, 20 January I applied for two accounts for the boys, with Mrs W and me as trustees. We did it online as that’s easiest for us, and as the website says

Applying is easy – it takes just 5 minutes to apply online now.

Ten days later on Friday, 30 January we received two letters from the Halifax asking us to visit a branch with identification for the boys. Fair enough as there’s no way to verify the identity of a two year old and a four year old online:

“…as part of our opening process to activate the account, our procedures require evidence of the child’s identity…please call into your local branch with evidence of the child’s identity…once we have received the above, you will be able to start using your account.”

Interestingly the letters tell me that I’ve actually opened two accounts for each son – one regular saver (what I wanted) and one Save4it account (that I didn’t want or ask for).

So are you still with me?

So the following week Mrs W heads into our local branch with the requested forms of identification for the boys. She presents them and is told that’s fine.

Later that day the branch calls up to say there’s a problem. She should have taken in identification for the trustees on the accounts too.

This wasn’t mentioned in the letters we received, so I called Halifax, who said they knew it wasn’t in the letters but I did need to present my identification in person to a branch to start using the accounts. Once I’d done that it would all be sorted and we could start using the accounts, they promised.

Later that week I went into the Chatham branch to present my identification. All sorted I’m assured.

At this point I also tried to pay in my pound into each of the accounts that I didn’t want but had to have to anyway. This took nearly half an hour of head scratching before the very helpful lady worked out why she couldn’t get the system to accept my pounds and give me the books I didn’t want for the accounts I didn’t ask for.

Apparently my wife needs to present identification before the account can be used – and she needs to do it in person!

News to me I say, but apparently the rules are the rules, despite the fact they seem to keep changing. The staff at the branch were helpful, but seemed to be as confused as I was about what was happening.

So off Mrs W traipses to our local branch again with her identification. She’s promised this is all sorted and we can start using the accounts.

In the meantime the passbooks for the accounts I didn’t want turn up in the post as promised by the helpful lady in Chatham. The only snag is that they can’t be used until the invisible signature is added – and to do this we need to present identification in a branch (again).

If you’re still with then well done, but don’t think the saga ends here…

This morning another letter arrives at our home address where we’ve lived for more than five years from our friends at the Halifax.

Apparently they now need to confirm our address (the one they’ve written to three times by now and has led to our three branch visits and multiple phone calls) as they have different addresses on file for us!

In the course of a 26 minute phone call, Mrs W establishes that Halifax still seem to have our old addresses on file from when we were previously mortgage customers of theirs in the past – despite those mortgages having been fully redeemed years ago and us no longer being customers (we thought).

It takes some convincing for the various people on the Halifax end of the line to believe we are the people who’ve presented identification three times at branches following letters written to the address they’re not convinced we live at.

So, five weeks, six letters, three branch visits and several long phone calls later we hope we’ve managed to open the accounts after our 5 minute online application.

I can’t believe how hard Halifax have made it to open two simple accounts – an apalling customer experience from start to finish and one that I wouldn’t want to repeat in a hurry.

Interestingly around the same time I opened new accounts online with two other financial institutions – First Direct and Tesco.

I’m already a customer with First Direct and recommend their great service to everyone who’ll listen to my ramblings – and they had the accounts up and running in a couple of days.

We were new customers to Tesco, but their online application did everything it needed to for money laundering regulations and the like and we were using the accounts within a fortnight.

And what’s worst of all, I now have the sound of the Halifax TV ads running around and around my head:

25 Comments on “Bad customer service from Halifax – a rant”

  1. Ingrid Koehler

    who gives you extra hassle? Actually my experiences with this bank have been good – another one I could name though….

  2. Simon

    it still makes me angry thinking about it now – am venting this further by starting to draft a more customer experience-focussed post about what lessons can be taken from the whole sorry saga!

    1. vic

      Been there got the T-shirt Simon,thank God I’m not alone. HBOS stinks and dont know the meaning of Customer Service,good luck with your future posts but it’s my belief that they’ll never change their ways as these complaints have been going on for years now and will continue to do so all the time HBOS maintains their stance of not listening to their customers and not reviewing their procedures accordingly.

  3. Neil Tipton

    I feel your pain. I too opened an account about two years ago with the Halifax by applying online and found it a painful process. I took up the offer of an 8 per cent interest current account, which by signing up by a certain date entitled me to a £100 credit. A good deal (or so it seemed). All I had to do was sign up online and let the Halifax sort the transfer of direct debits/standing orders etc. Initially things seemed to be going well, in that the online part was fairly simple (albeit not necessarily totally clear in its instructions) but did result an an account being created and a letter, much the same as yours, asking me to prove my identity either by sending off documents or visiting my local branch with them. Not fancying trusting my passport to the mail (especially as I needed it for a trip abroad) I went to my local branch, whose staff seemed bemused at the process and what to do. After several phonecalls to head office they verified the account by telling me I needn’t have brought in the documentation because I was an existing customer. I pointed out that I wasn’t, but had previously had an account from them which was closed several years before. I’ve moved house twice since then, so the majority of the details for me are different, but apparently this is still enough to prove I am who I say I am!

    Not entirely filled with confidence in the Halifax, I was told to await a confirmation letter from the transfer team to get my details from my existing bank to move direct debits etc. Two weeks passed and no letter, so off I tripped to the local branch again. Staff again seemed somwhat confused (if friendly) and after several phonecalls, took my other bank account details and started the transfer process. I was told that a month after £1,000 had been credited to the account, I would get my £100 reward.

    So, a month passes. My salary is paid into the account. Direct debits and standing orders are paid out correctly. But there’s no sign of my £100. Cue several phonecalls and another trip to my local branch (who do at least seem to be able to resolve problems!). They enquire with head office and tell me I am not eligible because the local branch arranged transfer of direct debits, plus the account wasn’t activated before the offer’s deadline expired. When I point out that to qualify I only need to apply before the deadline, which I did in plenty of time, and that the only reason the branch did the transfers was because the online process had completely failed, they finally agreed to pay me the money I was rightly due.

    In all, the whole process took some four months to resolve and was hardly the welcome to my bank that I expected. That said, I’ve had no problems since.

    Overall though, it’s not hard to see why HBOS and the banking industry in general are in such a mess!

  4. Dave

    What is the point in opening accounts online if you have to present yourself in person more than 3 times in your local branch!

    One of my colleagues Neil had a similar problem not long ago with another bank (one of the big names), so it looks as though they do generally provide customers with similar offers/services all comes down to customer service at the end of the day.

  5. Ryan

    Yep the account opening proceedure online for new customers with halifax, especially kids accounts, is a nightmare unless you know what to expect (ID for kids, ID for trustees etc etc, all stops taken off account in branch etc) but in fairness once up and running, it all goes well and then you can do online apps easily in future without the faff of proving ID etc. It’s a pain but I’d rather do the rigmoroll to know that no-one can pose as me, at least with that bank!

  6. James

    Halifax are an utterly terrible bank. I banked with them for over a year while incurring hundreds of pounds in fees. They are merely a device for removing as much of your money as they can at the greatest inconvenience to you. I hate that bank. I am not surprised you have a grievance with them… I hate that my taxes have propped them up… they have given us nothing back…

  7. Sandra

    Yes, I totally agree. I have had nothing but frustration when dealing with this bank. I too had a similar saga when I tried to open an account. I set up an SO to pay my rent but they kept getting the amount wrong so this caused trouble with my landlord. It was awful. I just tried to call and close a savings account to be told that I had to go into the branch even though I had opened it online.

    To top it all they asked me what I was using the money for that I was withdrawing. I was totally taken aback. How dare they ask me what I intend to do with my money? I can scarcely credit that this is a professional bank. I told them they had absolutely no right to ask me such an intrusive question which was clearly none of their business.

    No wonder they are in trouble.

  8. Sarah

    Today i have managed to close all 3 of my halifax accounts, one current, one savers reward and a ISA account.
    (Sorry if this is slightly off topic but would like to let other Halifax customers know what they have done to me).

    I must admit closing my account down, that was more easy than i thought it was going to be.
    And top it off i didnt even get asked to why i was closing all 3 Accounts down which was a very big shock to me as i did expect that and i did have a answer ready for them!
    (Shows they dont care)
    But at least it was easy closing down tho.

    I would advise anyone to be very careful of the Halifax, Ive been with them for over 20 yrs have had a few probs in the past but this lastest one was the final straw for me.

    In the past i had a standing order come out and i was under by 99p so they charged me £35 but they took it out of my account without notice and funny enough when there was no funds in my account..Jammy a!
    Then i get a letter saying im going to be charged another £35 because that other £35 wasnt in my account. News to me, now if they had given me notice or told at least then i could of made sure that the money was in there but they didnt, So i went in to my local Branch to sort it out they did admit that they were wrong to take money out of my account when the funds werent there and charge me another £35 without given me notice, so i did get away with that but still had to pay the other £35 which i did…!

    Thurs 29th oct 2009 i phoned my bank to transfer my wages into savings, baring in mind i already have a standing order set up the same day to take a small amount out, i just thought i could save a bit more this week, now i was told that standing order goes at 9am Thursday my wages go in @ 12.01am Thursday which i have the proof of that now due to what has happened here.

    when i spoke to the bloke i said to him that ive already had a amount gone into my savings today but would like to put more in, he came back and said he had nothing on his computer for any transfers into my savings account, so ive asked can you find out why for me, was put on hold then he came back and said this is a wild GUESS but i think it has be rejected so of course that worried me so i asked to speak to a manager he then said why so i said well you are telling me you are guessing and thats not what i want to hear i would like to find out why there has been no transfer so he told me best thing to do is to ring back tomorrow.
    So i came off the phone and thought this out right as i know ive had no probs before and i couldnt wait till tomorrow i wanted to know now as it will just play on my mind,

    So i rung back and spoke to a female this time explained what just happened then she put me on hold and then came back and told me it was rejected and that im now going to get charged £35, and it was my fault that the funds werent in there, so i asked her can you tell me what time the standing order was due out as i was told that doesnt come out till 9am, she told me she couldnt get that information so i said can you pass me onto someone that can, and she then said the manager is going to tell you the same thing so i explain in a blunt way im not going to pay the £35.

    I explained to her i have all my statements from the past year and i know for a fact that my wages have gone in before with the odd pound left in my account and that my standing order has come out fine so why didnt i get charged them, she turned around and said count yourself lucky then!

    So i asked to speak to the manager i want to know the times this standing order was suppose to of come out so she put me on hold and then came back and told me that my wages went in @ 4am and the standing order came out @ 3.30am, now baring in mind at 1st she told me she couldnt get that information.. now all of a sudden she did..hmmm.
    Then she started telling me about agreements to the bank accounts and i said i dont want to hear this im telling you now my wages go in at 12.01am and you are now telling me they didnt go in until 4am so hows that my fault if your system is delaying my money! She then put me on hold again,
    so i rung my boss @ work and asked is there any proof that you can give me that my wages went in on a date and time, so thank god boss told me yes and then i said can you print it off for me and i will be down tomorrow to pick it up.
    when she got back to me i told her that im not going to pay this £35 and that my wages went in @ 12.01am and that i have now got proof of this so if it gets delayed in your system its not my fault then she told me that all standing orders comes out @ 3.30am which is not what i was told when i set mine up (do they honestly believe i would be that stupid to set up a standing order and then have my wages go in afterwards knowing they could charge me if the funds werent there).

    we wasnt getting anywhere as she kept saying that i have no choice to pay it and i was saying i wasnt going to, so yet again i asked to speak to a manager she then said there isnt one availble but i will get one to ring you back friday so i said is that a promise and she said yes…
    As i got off the phone i was fumming so i thought about it and i stopped my D/D from coming out and stopped my standing orders from my current to my savers.. transfered over from my ISA account to savers so i could walk in friday and withdraw all my money from them 2 accounts.
    I rung up another bank account and applyed over the phone got accepted through credit check etc!
    So today friday i went into bank withdrew all my money out and closed my accounts my cuurent one is pending as it has got 2 D/D to come out 1st then after that it closes down and did my ISA over the phone.

    Then hour later when i got home i got a call from the same female saying that i havent put you through to a manager yet as ive just looked into your account and you will not get charged as we cant find the standing order that was due to come out we can see last weeks one but not this weeks and would i like to set one up now..

    what a cheek so i said no as ive just closed all my accounts and that im now banking with another bank, she then said well i would of hoped that you would off waited till you spoke to a manager but she told me that she wasnt going to put me through to a manager as i wasnt going to get charged so she just said im sorry you feel this way so i said maybe you want to get your facts right 1st and you have just lost my custom of 3 bank accounts bye.

    To all just be very careful and im now making sure that my standing orders come out the next day after my wages go in do not believe what they say!

    Think of this £35 charge for there Error 10 customers hmm £350

    Also i would say when you speak to them either phone or in branch write down date time and who you are speaking with, it helps alot!
    and always keep your statements etc..
    Sorry for the rather long story but hopefully it will help others.

  9. vic

    To Simon & every other poor Halifax sufferer,I have been on the wrong end of their incompetence and poor customer service for nearly 13 months now and rue the day I ever joined this incapable organisation.We as a family had similar problems to Simon with constant requests for ID and signatures and further problems when closing our 2 daughters accounts.My wife and I have since bravely re-invested into 2yr fixed Isas (attracted by the 3.5% rate) but whilst my wife’s went through ok mine has yet to be done 35 days later.I mean how difficult can it be to reinvest the previous years isa for a further 2 years.The worry,the phone calls and the frustration has been immense over the past year and still it goes on,and if anything their customer service has got worse and nobody seems to know anything or be able to resolve issues.In fact you’re lucky if you can actually get through and when you do they all sing from different hymn sheets with no attempt at apologising.I’ve threatened them with the ombudsman and that may have to be my final action as I can’t go on like this.Like the rest of you,I expected a hell of a lot more from such a large organisation with such a huge public persona and now switch the tv off when their bloody annoying adverts come on.Instead of spending so much on advertising why don’t they start with the basics and get their Customer Service house in order before we all walk away in disgust.

  10. Lynda

    I have had a nightmare with trying to open an online account with Halifax (too taumatic to detail). But I must disagree with Ryan’s comment about “no-one can pose as me” – I can’t pose as me! they don’t believe I’m me and I have not managed to open an account. After promising I could open this account online they insist I must go into a branch. I won’t. PS I am solvent, and have an excellent banking history, but their website played-up and that is why they want me to run about. I’m voting with my feet – in another direction.

  11. Yvonne Thompson

    I too have had quite a few terrible experiences with the Halifax and have, literally, voted with my feet. I have moved my current account to Smile and my husband has done likewise and moved to the Co-op. We are both really happy with our new banks, who both have garnered high customer approval ratings from Which. We also have a savings scheme with the Ecology Building Society who are another fantastic, ethical financial institution – small, local and caring. I would heartily recommend them. Halifax levied guargantuan fees on my when I was made redundant and went slightly overdrawn. They they took 3 weeks to close my account and in the process managed to “accidentally extract” £240 from my account which they then tried to get me to pay for. When they realised that it may have been an internal mistake, they completely ignored the whole issue, refunded the amount and closed the account swiftly. I am now waiting for a letter of acknowldgement and apology and if this doesn’t arrive, will be going to the press. Remember, we are all very powerful as consumers especially if we utilise that power effectively and support businesses who are financially and ethically transparent and who offer good customer service.

  12. Tony

    Halifax are terrible.. I still can’t close my old current and savings accounts, as they come out with increasingly pathetic and desperate reasons why it’s *impossible* to close them (they’re in credit, and have had no transactions for months – didn’t stop them trying to charge ‘overdraft fees’ for the current account despite it having no transactions that month at all, and being in credit throughout, – and their CS were utterly incompetent and just kept parroting that it was correct).

    It happens 2 years ago my wife decided to start an ISA with them.. she was recommended one by the staff and naively entered it. Throughout its life its interest rate has been pathetic – 0.5% last time I looked, but we accepted it was locked in for 2 years and nothing we could do. This last month it matured.. we got a letter and immediately rang up to tell them to transfer the balance on the maturity date to her account with a different bank. Halifax say no go – with an ISA the *only* procedure they’ll accept is turning up in person on the morning of the maturity date, and if you don’t turn up you’re locked in for another 2 years.

    Now it happens my wife has a badly injured foot, and can hardly walk across the room let alone travel to a bank in person – on top of this Halifax have closed the local branch and it means a trip to the next town. She tried.. she really tried. But couldn’t make it.

    Halifax have been *utterly* unsympathetic, and have now ‘reinvested’ the money into an account paying a pathetic 0.1% for another 2 years – with no access to the money before that. This is apparently entirely legal. They’ve basically stolen the money – all they have to do is to come up with some convoluted procedure every 2 years and you’ll never ever see your money again. Can’t even sue them for it, because it’s legal for banks to do this.

  13. Helen

    HBOS have reported tens of thousands of ISA accounts to HMRC as non tax paid (even though no tax is due, due to them being tax-emempt savings vehicles).

    As a result HMRC have started hundreds of aspect investigations into self assessment tax returns. Even though they know HBOS are at fault, even though they know the info is faulty, rather than throwing all the info back to HBOS to sort out, they are still carrying on.

    No wonder the country is in the state it is, if civil servants can’t use some common sense, and that HBOS get thousands of complaints made to the FOS about them every year.

    1. john

      I had the same experience with HMRC / HBOS over a 2009/2010 ISA. HBOS insisted they had not made an error and only admitted the error when I reported the matter to the Financial Ombudsman and was eventually awarded £500 compensation.
      Am digusted with HMRC’s policy of contesting taxpayers’ self-assessment when they are fully aware of the HBOS ISA issue. Have referred my complaint to HMRC adjudicator – outcome awaited but I should hear in the next couple of weeks.

  14. Pauline

    I opened one of these accounts and went through all the branch rigmarole and finally got the account up and running. Once up and running, it worked fine and I checked periodically until this month when I discovered none of my passwords, etc were recognised online. Thinking I’d had a “senior moment” and confused my passwords, I attempted to reset said passwords. My user name was not recognised and I was referred to an 0845 number for customer services. Fearing I had been a victim of fraud of some sort, I phoned the number and after 10 minutes holding on, pressing various buttons and so on (at goodness knows what cost!) I was relieved to finally get through to an english speaking voice. The “customer services” advisor turned out to be a cheeky article who sniffily informed me trustee accounts could no longer be accessed on line, these accounts were no longer available and I would have to go into a branch to get a passbook account. I told him I had never received a letter instructing me to do this and he sharply told me that no letters had been issued, it had been posted on the website. When I pointed out that this was a savings account where my savings were locked in for 2 years therefore I only checked it periodically, he retorted “Well it was on the website”. Shocking service from a bank holding my money. Why no letters sent out to customers? I am heading in this week to close all my HBOS accounts and transfer to Santander where i have never had any issues with my savings accounts or ISA’s. I feel extremely angry over this situation.

  15. Rose

    How do they get away with it? They know how to bend the FSA guidelines to meet their own needs and will happily slap you with credit file damage and late fees without blinking an eye, but even when they have got it wrong they are still allowed to take up to 8 weeks before fixing it. So incorrect late fees and damaged credit files – we apparently just have to live with it until its resolved. No other bank I have used have treated their customers so badly and I will be moving my mortagage away from Halifax the second I can!

  16. Dr Pervez

    I tried to buy a Tablet PC online but my Deb. card declined. I called them 4/5 times from overseas. Three of the customer service assistants ( they call advisers) picked the problem right. All of them assured me that problems have been fixed. Irony of fate, I couldn’t make online shopping yet. What kind of stupid customer service is this??

  17. Liz Barden

    If only I had seen these comments before I was lured by the 6% interest of the kids saver account. Since opening it in January, a catalogue of errors has followed- direct debit not working, incorrect account number on tax exemption form (written by staff!). Very unprofessional attitude of staff also. I get the distinct impression they are making errors on purpose to save them having to pay out so much interest- as surely they cant really be this incompetent?! Obviously they are and tomorrow I will be going in to attempt to close this account- I am not hopeful….

  18. samrah

    Halifax bank are like that. They discriminated against me knowing i was a mentally ill person. I have had many dealings with them and for me they are the worst bank in the whole word! The staff members are liars and the bank managers are raisict. They provoke mentally ill people and costumers crying. They have ruined my daughters holidays and it is affecting my daughter a lot. I am taking this issue to court and to the papers and will make sure the world knows about what kind of people the Halifax branch are.

  19. vic

    I am delighted to announce that after the 2yr Fixed Rate Isa period had elapsed on our isas (x4)that we have now since successfully transferred them over to Nationwide from the nightmare that is Halifax and no longer have the anxiety/stress/problems that we continuously experienced in the past. The Nationwide gets 10/10 for everything from customer service, to products,and esp ease of online banking.
    I will never ever go back to Halifax whatever their rates and can only encourage you all to move to the Nationwide ASAP in order to experience true Customer Satisfaction.

    All the Best,

    Vic.:)

  20. jan

    I’ve been a Halifax customer for 30 years, and have several accounts with them, as had my partner, but now we are totally frustrated with them. Made an appointment today, to close some empty online accounts (can’t do online!) and to take me off a joint account with my partner, and to add him to one of mine. They wouldn’t touch my accounts as they said that the copy of my signature online didn’t remotely match that on my cards and my driving license and as my license is old it doesn;t have a photo on. They have NO explanation of this, or why it hasn’t come up before!! Wouldn’t let me speak to someone more senior – I offered to log into my online account and give them other security info but they wouldn’t budge. Very worrying as they can’t explain whether it is fraudulent, cock-up or computer scrambling (it does look a bit strange). To add insult to injury their account closing system waswn’t working properly so we were in there over an hour and only managed to close one of his accounts, and I have to go back there tomorrow passport in hand! Yet recently, when a substantial amount of money was paid into an account that my partner had just closed they broke banking protocol and instead of returning to payee, they put into another account of his, but didn’t tell him, and as it was an old account he didn’t look at at the bottom of his online accounts he was chasing the payee to pay again but understandably they wouldn’t as they hadn’t had it returned! Hightly embarrasing, and Halifax could not explain who had done it or why.

  21. Phil Belcher

    Halifax customer service is a joke. Avoid dealing with this company. I took full details of my wife’s accounts after she died suddenly. They were all passed to the ‘specialist bereavement service’. I get a long and patronising letter saying that they understand what a difficult time it is but they have dealt with anything and giving me a cheque. Except they haven’t. So I get another letter asking for money back. Then I start getting arrears letters from credit card account who have not been informed despite me checking twice that they would be.

    Customer relations tell me ‘its not policy to give feedback but we will make changes to make sure this doesn’t happen to others. Yeah right! plus a poxy £100.

    I work in the health service another state owned service. We wouldn’t get away with this approach. Please spead the word. Don’t bank with this disaster zone. They have no idea what they are doing and their answer to the total mess is to give your money away!!!

  22. Sandy Robertson

    I’ve been with Halifax for years. I find the telephone banking dreadful – often the system refuses to understand my information, regardless of whether I speak or use touchscreen. Even when talking to a human it’s maddening. They lost my security number so until I get a new one I have to verify by questions. Sometimes my NI number, which is easy. But sometimes they ask exactly how much I spent at M&S on a particular day – who in the hell remembers that? Or they say something went into your account the other day so how much was it? As they don’t say from where and I haven’t yet had my statement how could I answer? They made me transfer money from one account to another before sending to the person I wanted it to go to because the first account is only usable in branch. Following month I went through same procedure only to be told I DIDNT do that last time because it’s not allowed, I must have gone to branch!?! Every month I have interminable time on phone with Halifax with whom I have 4 accounts and a 30 year mortgage, apparently all for my ‘protection’. Fair enough, but can’t they make it easier?

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