How bank error led to model customers on list of debtors
Despite an unblemished banking record lasting almost half a century, Paula and Jeff Buttifant of Wells were mistakenly put on a debtors' list by NatWest.
The couple were told it was a "glitch in the system" that cancelled all their direct debits and put them on the blacklist, leaving them with more than a dozen bills unpaid and untold hassle and stress.
Mrs Buttifant said they were shocked when they suddenly started receiving letters and telephone calls out of the blue from utilities, insurance firms and other companies because their direct debits had been cancelled.
"My husband and I are very proud of how we have run our account, in all our years we have never owed a penny, even when things have been difficult."
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Even when the pair went into their local branch the first suggestion was that the problem was theirs and they were overdrawn.
"I was extremely angry," said Mrs Buttifant.
"I have to say the two women in the local branches that we talked to were fantastic – Rachel Plenty of Wells and Jill Knight of Street – have done everything they can.
"But the lack of help further up has been astonishing."
It has taken a week and a catalogue of telephone calls and letters to put the situation right.
"My husband is disabled with a condition that stress exacerbates, so this is the last thing he needs," said Mrs Buttifant.
"We've had a verbal apology from our branch, £25 credited to our account to cover the costs and a bouquet of flowers but I told them what I really wanted was our reputation rectified and a letter of apology.
"And our concern is now that somehow we are going to be labelled as bad debtors. We want every trace of this expunged but you hear about mistakes with credit ratings and we now wonder who can we trust."
The couple have now received a letter of apology and are being urged to discuss further compensation with the bank.
Suzanne Buckland, of NatWest, said: "We are extremely sorry for the error that has occurred on Mr and Mrs Buttifant's account and for the distress that it has caused them.
"We are still investigating how it happened, but as soon as we became aware of it we took immediate steps, which saw us re-instating all of the direct debits for them, ensuring that their credit file is not adversely affected, and offering and subsequently paying costs that they have incurred as a result of making phone calls, etc.
"We have apologised both verbally and in writing to Mr and Mrs Buttifant and have offered them compensation for the upset and distress, which we fully accept that this incident has caused them. Mrs Buttifant has advised us that they do not want this, but we would urge them to contact us if they wish to reconsider, or to discuss anything else further."