Barclays incompetence

I asked Barclays to refund a Direct Debit in accordance with the Direct Debit Guarantee. This should be a simple and routine thing for any bank involved in the DD scheme. Sadly not, and this is the exchange with Barclays lasting a week! I have redacted some details obviously...

First message, via secure on-line banking messaging...

Fri 09/02/2018 20:19 A direct debit from my account today appears to not have had the required advance notice. Please provide an IMMEDIATE refund as per the Direct Debit Guarantee. The payment is for £271.38 today to BUPA CENTRAL A/C from my account number XX-XX-XX XXXXXXXX. Don't cancel the Direct Debit instruction, just refund that specific payment. Thanks. 

Concise and to the point and all of the details they need.

Well, I get (at every stage) a standard reply saying they aim to respond within 48 hours (clearly bullshit), so I'll omit those... But I did reply to the first one, just to be clear...

Fri 09/02/2018 20:22 Sorry but a reply in 48 hours is not acceptable, the Direct Debit Guarantee you offer is an IMMEDIATE refund, and not a 48 hour delay, please rethink this and reply IMMEDIATELY with a REFUND as per your GUARANTEE.

So, how long to wait I wonder... After 4 days...

Tue 13/02/2018 07:29 It has now been substantially more than 48 hours. This is meant to be an IMMEDIATE REFUND under the DD guarantee. This does not feel very IMMEDIATE to me. Please act on my request today or I will have to take this matter further.

Finally a reply...

Tue 13/02/2018 13:47 Hi Mr Adrian, 

Thank you for sending us a message and I apologise for the delay of response. 

I understand that you would like your direct debit payment to BUPA for £271.38 on 09-Feb-2018 to be returned because you were not given an  
advance notice for it. We can progress this as an indemnity claim for you. Most customers receive a refund which will be visible in their  
account immediately, however on occasions we may require further information regarding your claim to establish the error before a refund can be  
provided. If we do require further information from you, I will advise you of the outcome once your claim has been logged. Whilst the bank can  
provide a refund, you may be required to pay back the amount refunded if an error has not occurred. In this situation, the originator that  
collected the DDR is likely to seek payment from you, which may include legal action. Are you happy to proceed on this basis? 

I look forward for your response, Mr Adrian. 

Rodante Jericho Araullo 

Customer Support Manager 
Barclays Bank PLC

This is what prompted my recent rant. "We can progress this as an indemnity claim for you" is just wrong. I am requesting a refund under the Direct Debit Guarantee, not any sort of "indemnity claim". I respond, promptly...

I have to say the scare tactics of possible "legal action" are over the top. There may even be some major flaws in the logic here. I request a refund as part of a guarantee the bank offers me. The bank claim from originator as part of an indemnity they have with the bank. That indemnity is to cover losses due to the originator failing to follow DD rules (such as giving notice). I see nothing in either of those to processes that impacts the fact I did pay the originator by Direct Debit as per the contract I have with them. Even after my bank (not the originator) refunded me for an error, I still paid the originator as per their contract terms. The fact they paid on an insurance policy they have with the bank because of an error they made (not my error), does not mean they can reclaim that insurance pay out from me in some way, does it? So actually I feel the law and the contracts and guarantees in Direct Debits have a huge hole in them.

In practice all originators consider such a refund and indemnity claim to be "un-paying" the money you owed, but I am not sure that actually holds legally (before anyone asks, A&A T&Cs do make it so for our DDs).

There is a new clause on the DD guarantee that if you get a refund to which you are not entitled, then you will have to repay it if/when the originator asks, but in this case I am entitled to it as they made a mistake, so even that clause does not kick in.

Anyway, in spite of scaremongering I try to explain I do want this!

Tue 13/02/2018 14:02 I am making a claim against you under the direct debit guarantee. So refund the payment immediately as per the guarantee. Don't cancel the ongoing instruction. 

The error is simple, I have not seen the agreed advance notice for this collection. Obviously I cannot prove that as one cannot prove a negative. 

As for an indemnity claim, that is entirely a matter between you and the originator and nothing to do with me, so I'll leave you to do whatever you wish in that regard. My dealing with you relates only to the Direct Debit Guarantee which you as a bank offer to me. 

Please confirm when you have made the refund. Thank you.

Note, I state things like "So refund the payment immediately" and "Please confirm when you have made the refund" so there can be no doubt I want them to go ahead...

But, oddly, nothing, no reply... I did say they need to action "today" or I would take further, so next day...

Wed 14/02/2018 07:10 I requested this on Friday. It is now Wednesday and it has not happened. 

I remind you the guarantee is an IMMEDIATE REFUND. 

This is not IMMEDIATE. 

I did say in my last message that if not done yesterday I will have to take this further. 

As such, please advise the process to refer this matter to the banking ombudsman as Barclays have failed to response to communication within their 48 hour target and failed to provide an immediate refund in accordance with the Direct Debit Guarantee.

So this really is making it crystal clear I am expecting this to have been done by now. I mean how clear can I make it?!

So I give up and contact them on twitter, and end up talking to the social media team on the secure messaging system... Even so this is next day.

Thu 15/02/2018 16:00 Hello Adrian, 

I can see that my colleague has replied to you about this on the 13th of February, asking you to confirm if you're happy to proceed with the  
indemnity claim to recall your direct debit. As you haven't specifically said you're happy to proceed with this the claim hasn't been actioned.  

In regards to the timescale, we aim to reply within 24 hours however it can take up to 5 working days to get a reply. If you need something to  
be actioned urgently I'd recommend that you ring us directly on 03457 345 345 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 

Let me know if you're happy to proceed with the indemnity and I will get this set up for you to recall the direct debit payment for you. 

Kind regards, 
Ramona Oprea 

Barclays Bank PLC. 

I mean, really, all of my messages were somehow not I "specifically said you're happy to proceed" how the hell is that a sensible reply in any way?!

Thu 15/02/2018 16:06 I replied at Tue 13/02/2018 14:02 

I stated "So refund the payment immediately as per the guarantee." 
I also stated "Please confirm when you have made the refund. Thank you." 

How clear do I have to be on this. As per my original message nearly a week ago and that reply. 


Is that clear enough for you?

So hopefully now it makes sense...

Thu 15/02/2018 16:53 I am sorry for the confusion created earlier with my colleague, I think he got confused when you've mentioned that this is not an indemnity but  
a refund.  

However I have now raised this for you and the details have been sent to our processing team who normally action by the next working day,  
however on occasions we may require further information regarding your claim to establish the error before a refund is to be made. If you have  
not received the refund, it is likely we need to obtain further details from yourself.  

Once this has been actioned you should see the refund coming back into your account.  

Kind regards, 
Ramona Oprea 

Barclays Bank PLC. 

And finally the refund happened on Friday... A week after I demanded it.

Barclays, this is not how you handle an immediate refund!


  1. I'd suggest emailing the MD anyway. ceoemail.com can be useful for that. You never know: you might get an apology and assurances things won't get so bad again should you ever need to do something similar.

  2. Your entire blog post seems to revolve around the fact that Barclays online banking secure messaging isn't a real time chat room.

    As a customer you might want a reply to these messages immediately, or at least same day - but clearly at the moment that's not what this method of communication is set up to provide.

    It seems to me that ringing them up would have probably gotten you the immediate refund that you wanted...

    1. Well, yes and no. They say 48 hours, and indeed later say 24 hours. That would have been fine. Ask fo a refund and 48 hour later I have it. So it seemed a perfectly suitable medium for making such a request to be honest, and calling them is actually a lot of hassle.

  3. Sounds like it could be time to exercise consumer sovereignty and cast a vote via the invisible hand of capitalism as to how the economy should allocate its resources. Some organisations seem to forget that the customer is ultimately their boss. Although I admit it’s a bit like voting in an election, which can be frustrating; one lone voice doesn’t make much difference, but if everyone did it, the customer would be back in the driving seat again.

    Frankly I’m amazed that some banks have any customers at all, actually.

  4. It's clear that Barclays Bank are trying to make DD refunds as difficult as possible and delay it as long as possible. Sadly there is no such thing as IMMEDIATE refunds.

    1. It puzzles me as to why, since the DDIC was made an automatic BACS transaction, it is not hassle for them to do, and no paperwork or anything. They should make it really easy and part of on-line banking.

    2. Of course there's such a thing as an immediate refund. Your bank balance is just a database entry, the bank absolutely _could_ just credit you immediately with the value of the cancelled transaction.

      That's exactly what happened years ago when a utility company debited money I didn't owe. I phoned up, I said "I want you to unwind this debit" and the money was immediately credited to my account. Nobody tried to bamboozle me with nonsense about how there's an "indemnity" to claim or made-up waiting periods, they just unwound the transaction while I was talking, because that's what the guarantee says.

      [ The utility company threatened to sue me, sent scary lawyer letters, and then... wiped out my accounts entirely including all the actual usage over the problem period and started me with a fresh account. Because without Direct Debit they were forced to actually fix their mistake ]

      The bank never winds up losing a penny on these incidents, the only reason to not do them immediately is because you don't care about customer service. So, get a bank that cares about customer service. Yes that means it might charge more or offer lower interest rates. Boo hoo. A&A isn't the cheapest ISP either, but we all picked them because they're competent and deliver actual service.

  5. BUPA already agreed the payment was a mistake, just that they would take two weeks to refund it. They lied about that claiming "Direct Debits take 10 days to clear". They don't, they clear the day they leave my account. Even with Barclays incompetence it was quicker to demand a refund.

  6. I recently wanted to alert Barclays to an error in the printout/pdf of a payment advice - the timezone is rendered as GMT+1 where it should be GMT for UK transactions at this time of year. So I went the secure online message route, with mounting frustration. My experience of the folk at the other end of the secure message process is that they are complete morons. A total failure to understand what I was trying to tell them. I ended up writing (snailmail) to the chairman, and that seems that it might bear better fruit (still ongoing).
    For something like a quick DD reversal the bakelite trumpet might be the better solution.

  7. Had no problems getting NatWest to reverse a direct debit (their wording) had to wait until 2am the next day for it to be back in my account but much quicker than getting Sky to acknowledge they broke the DD Guarantee

  8. I think you should write to them demanding 1p in lost interest, just to hammer the point home. It will probably cost them several person-hours to deal with your not-unreasonable request.

  9. Try First Direct. They very rarely screw up and if they do, they are available 24/7/365 on the end of a phone for a rant!

  10. I had a bad DD on my first direct account. Phoned them up and they reversed it on the spot, no quibble. Weirdly, rather than creating a reversal transaction, the DD transaction disappeared from my on line banking, as if it had never happened!

  11. What they should do is add a refund button on the direct debit section of internet banking, you hit the button and BAM you refunded. If they want a reason then thats fine, add a box for the reason to be filled in.

  12. Thought you might like an update on how Barclays are getting on with this - we tried to recall a direct debit (at the suggestion of the originator - who realised - correctly - that their own internal processes were too slow to stop them taking an incorrect amount). Day 1 email Barclays local business team on the day the direct debit was taken asking them to recall the DD, Day 2 Ring Barclays to find out what has happened - find email is still unread - but because it has not been actioned on the day of DD, we need to do an indemnity claim (whatever that means). Day 3 we have still not received money - speak to someone else who tries to chase it with a team in Liverpool - they don't answer the phone, person eventually calls back and says it can take time, very difficult etc. etc but has chased team in Liverpool. Day 3 - sometime after 5pm (when I went home) Money is back in account finally. Day 4 original email still unread - so I ring up and try and speak with the local team - they have to call back about 1 hr later. They still have not opened the original email (very busy - taking a bit longer to deal with these things than we would like etc.etc.) Conclusion - Barclays has managed to re-organise itself into a state where it genuinely cannot process everyday business.

    Now then - we have a few machinery purchases coming up soon - guess who's bottom of the list for providing the finance? If it turns out they are cheapest (it's never been the case before - but who knows?) I will just use their prices to bargain down one of the other providers - honestly why would I even consider dealing with them? Its just so painfull. And as RevK has highlighted it's been like it for ages (since before Covid) - I guess it's not going to change any time soon.

  13. I had an experience with my bank (one of the traditional brick & mortar ones), and although their systems are quite antiquated, and their notifications seem to arrive at random times (I am talking many hours here, not minutes) relative to the event they are supposed to notify me of, the one time where I had to use the DD guarantee, I was pleased with them.
    I woke up in the morning, and saw a notification (email) that about £2K had been paid from my current account. That was a bit of a shock, as it was totally unexpected. At first I thought that my account had been hacked, and then I realised that my ISP (not AA in case anybody is wondering, a Yorkshire-based one, who used to be good before being acquired by a larger group) I was departing from due to poor broadband service, instead of charging me for my final bill (which I hadn't yet received), charged me some random exorbitant amount. After checking my ISP account, and confirming that there was no reason for them to charge me that amount, I rang the bank (this was first thing in the morning), and invoked the DD guarantee. After giving me the spiel about me potentially still being liable to my ISP for the amount I was asking to be refunded (or reverted), I said I definitely wanted to invoke the guarantee as I was sure whatever I owed was nowhere near that much (I always paid on time by DD every month a bill of around £45), the nice lady on the phone said it was all being processed.
    Later on that day I check my bank account, and the money was back. End of story. Actually not, as I rang the ISP to tell them about it all, and the moment I mentioned the amount, I was immediately passed to someone higher up the chain (which made me think they had had a few instances of these errors). The higher-up chap I spoke to apologised, but was unable to:
    - Produce a final bill
    - Understand that the once my money was refunded, that was it for me: he kept asking (for a few weeks) to check with my bank to ensure I wasn't getting the money back twice (he seemed to think that because the £2K had not arrived into their account by the time I requested the DD reversal, and the bank had paid it back to me immediately, I might still get the same amount back again, which my bank repeatedly assured me it wouldn't happen, and it didn't).

    Anyway, I have since been with another ISP (not AA if anybody's wondering), who have provided me with reliable service and billing. Long it may continue.

    1. The think about being still liable to the ISP is a fun one. The guarantee did not used to say that, and has now been changed slightly (so I assume someone challenged) to say "If you receive a refund you are not entitled to [sic, should be to which you are not entitled], you must pay it back when the organisation asks you to". This is interesting too, as you *are* entitled to it if a mistake was made (which includes no notice, wrong date, or wrong amount), so even if the money was in fact owed, the DD does not say you have to pay it back as long as you were "entitled to it". It is the bank paying you, not the ISP, and doing so under a "guarantee". The ISP pay the bank basic on an insurance, an indemnity they give the bank. I have not seen tested (and A&A terms cover this in case you are wondering) but I am not sure the originator can necessary insist you repay it even if it was owed - after all they just paid out on an insurance to a bank, they did not "refund you", the bank did that, and it was for an event they caused (a mistake they made).


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