Saturday, 23 January 2016

There comes a time when you have to complain.

    It's been about two and a half years now, since I transitioned. One of the first things I did was change my name at my bank – (Bank name withheld for now) – by going into a branch with a copy of my statutory declaration of name change. All went well, and I went on my way.
    I noticed a few months ago that one of my (Bank name withheld for now) products, an ISA (A British tax-free savings scheme), still had my old name on it in their correspondence with me. Not a problem I thought, I'll simply ring them up and put right what is obviously a clerical error.
    The lady I talked to when I got round to ringing them up last week did not know the procedure, so put me on hold for a while while she consulted someone higher up the ladder. I was very surprised to be told when she came back on the line that they required a letter from one of my medical practitioners confirming that my name change is for gender reassignment and that is permanent.

    That's right. Medical details to change the name on a bank account.

    I was expecting that they would see the name change already on their records and make the change, or at worst require to see my statutory declaration. I explained that this was an unacceptable and highly unusual demand, that I was not prepared to comply with it and that they should follow it up with their diversity department as a matter of urgency. I was told that that was their requirement, and referred to their complaints department.
    The next day I talked to a lady from their complaints department who explained that they had checked again and that the medical detail was a requirement imposed by the Financial Ombudsman (British government financial regulator) because the ownership of stocks and shares was a different matter from a bank account, or for example owning a car. I explained that I felt it was in contravention of the Equalities Act because a cisgender person changing their name would not face an equivalent demand – I likened it to a married woman being asked for a letter from her gynaecologist with her name change request. All to no avail I was told, so I asked for the demand in writing and the call came to a close.
    I felt the citing of the Financial Ombudsman smacked of their making up their policy as they went along. Those stories of organisations you hear of using bogus Health and Safety or Data Protection rules as catch-all excuses to dodge their responsibilities came to mind. Sadly we transgender people are all too used to such things, we see them quite often used in our direction.
    So on receipt of their written response I rang the Financial Ombudsman phone line and asked them whether they had any such requirements for a name change. Their answer was that they do not, as I expected.
    As a result, I've put in a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. Such complaints are official business, so they will have to respond, any justifications will be investigated, and woe betide them if - as I suspect - they've played fast-and-loose with the Equalities Act.
    In particular I asked them to consider the following points:

  • Unnecessary and intrusive requirements such as medical demands for transgender people that are not applied to non-transgender people are likely to fall foul of the Equalities Act.
  • An organisation should not be allowed to make multiple demands for name change documentation because of their opaque group structure. I am a consumer not a corporate lawyer, so as far as I am concerned all my (Bank name withheld for now) branded and sold products come from (Bank name withheld for now). I should therefore only have to change my name once with (Bank name withheld for now). If they lack the competence to manage their customer database then that is their problem, not mine.
  • Citing bogus Financial Ombudsman rules brings that organisation into disrepute, and undermines consumer trust in the regulation of the banking business. This one I hope the Ombudsman will take especially seriously.
  • Given that I can close this ISA and open another in my new name with the same money, the whole process is rather pointless. Just who are they trying to protect here?

    It is likely that in time I will close the ISA in question and take my business elsewhere. However I feel that is is important that I pursue this action as I feel that unless they are required to examine their dealings with transgender customers it is likely that something worse will happen to another transgender customer in the future.  Nobody else is going to close down this kind of activity for us, there comes a time when we transgender people have to do it for ourselves.

9 comments:

  1. We want to know the bank's name to start a boycott, that is outrageous! How is it that so many incompetent scum find such cushy employment and get away with this kind of stupidity? My theory is that one got in by mistake and has been aiding whole legions of incompetents into systems everywhere and blocking those who could do better and show them up in an instant.

    Keep a check on your blood pressure, it is all part of their stupid plan to wear us down...

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  2. This is very public-spirited of you, Jenny.

    I do wonder whether they would have said the same if, instead of a statutory declaration, you had been armed with a Deed Poll. Which, of course, has no greater legal force, but nearly always seems to get a better reception from financial institutions.

    This is another example of the kind highlighted by the recently-published report on transgender inequality - which so far doesn't appear to have had much impact.

    Lucy

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  3. This is very public-spirited of you, Jenny.

    I do wonder whether they would have said the same if, instead of a statutory declaration, you had been armed with a Deed Poll. Which, of course, has no greater legal force, but nearly always seems to get a better reception from financial institutions.

    This is another example of the kind highlighted by the recently-published report on transgender inequality - which so far doesn't appear to have had much impact.

    Lucy

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    Replies
    1. I have had no trouble having my Statutory Declaration accepted by anyone, banks, building societies, pension funds and insurance have all been fine.

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  4. Its no wonder why banks aren't thought better of by people.

    I had a cheque to pay into my bank that was in my pre-transition name. The girl at the desk queried that it said Mr before realising why it said that but then promptly went and looked through my account history for something confirming the name change and paid it in. Completely upfront about what she needed to do and why. All sorted within 5 minutes.

    Have to admit that I did go the Deed Pol route so as Lucy said that might have had more weight with them.

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  5. Hi everyone, and thanks for your comments.

    I won't name the major high-street bank in question just yet. There's a Financial Ombudsman investigation ongoing, so maybe there's another way.

    I don't think the deed poll/stat dec thing makes any difference. They didn't get to ask me about name change documentation, just dived straight into the medical demands.

    We'll see what comes out of this. I'm in it because I think that the demand for medical details is outrageous, I think it would be nice if I could also establish that you only need change your name once with the same company, and I think their making up bogus Ombudsman rules could be the cherry on the cake.

    If I take one thing away from this it is that when someone says it's more than their jobsworth because of The Rules, ALWAYS ASK: "WHICH RULES, EXACTLY?". Rule number, paragraph number, clause number, etc. If they can't supply a rule, then they made it up.

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  6. This is quite outrageous, I have me personal and business accounts with two different institution, I had no problems changing my name with either, and one of them confirmed that I had no choice, if I changed my name it must be on all of the accounts I held there. Interestingly, soon afterwards I received a new paying in book with my new name, title and address on the front, inside the paying in slips still had my old name and title printed on them. After I asked the bank staff to spot what was wrong they quickly changed them!

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  7. As you already know it's rubbish and I doubt it's policy. Personally I would have written to their head office. My complaints around my name change elicited £200 in compensation.....nice little earner. Stupid mistakes and poorly trained staff equalled cash for me

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    Replies
    1. It's tempting, but as I have said I'm not in it for a cash reward. I'm in it to ensure that their industry has t take on board that this kind of thing isn't acceptable, thus protecting future name changers.

      The paperwork came from the ombudsman today. A form to fill in. At least it's in the system now.

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