Welcome to our first newsletter of 2019. There’s been a longer gap between newsletters than usual due to our chief newsletter-writer taking some parental leave, but normal service has now been resumed.
The Customer Union puts your concerns to the bank
As an independent Customer Union for Co-op Bank customers, we often receive questions about the bank from our members and supporters. These cover a range of issues, from ethical policy questions to customer services. We try to answer them ourselves when we can, but sometimes the questions need answers from the bank.
We put some of your questions to the bank at a special meeting with them at the end of last year, and the bank has provided its responses. (See our last newsletterfor an update on the Gathering.) These cover topics from why some people get more bank statements in the post than they want (and what you can do about it), to how the bank determines what it considers an ‘oppressive regime’. Read their full responses here.
As we seek a more structured relationship with the bank, we will start to approach the bank more systematically for answers to questions like these, and share what we learn.
Banks policing immigration
One interesting question we received regards the bank’s view on the role banks are being asked to play in effectively ‘policing’ immigration. Under the 2016 Immigration Act, banks have been required since January 2018 to conduct immigration checks on bank accounts aimed at identifying illegal immigrants. The Windrush scandal and the Home Office’s poor record of correctly identifying illegal immigrants have made these checks controversial, and the government took steps in May to ‘temporarily reduce the scope’ of these checks. We don’t know how many Co-op Bank customers (or customers of any other bank) may have been identified, rightly or wrongly, as illegal immigrants as a result of the checks, or whether deportations or actions have occurred as a result.
In its response to our question, the bank does not give a view, but sticks to the facts of what its duties are, saying that it has a “commitment...to fulfil our duties under the Act with care and integrity”. It does also volunteer that it continues “..to be a leading provider of basic bank accounts for those individuals who find it difficult to access a full service account, which includes migrants who have a right to reside at the time of application”. We had asked for the bank’s viewon the role it was being asked to play. We think that there was a time when the Co-op Bank might have been bold enough to express a view, or at least provide more detailed information so customers can make their own minds up. We’ll be getting back to the bank to press this point.
Send us your old ‘ethical’ Co-op Bank leaflets
As part of our drive to grow the Customer Union, we’ve been putting out a series of ads (or ‘promoted posts’) over Facebook, using the Co-op Bank’s own promotional material as a source material to remind people, and the bank itself, of the uncompromising ethical positions that many of us joined for. See the most recent ones here.
However we’re exhausting our supplies of old Co-op Bank ads, and need the help of any hoarders out there who might have old statement inserts or ethical policy surveys stashed away in a box in the attic. We’re especially after ads from before about 2005. Please scan them in and email them to us (firstname.lastname@example.org), or if you don’t have access to a scanner, drop them in the post to us - see the postal address at the foot of our website.
Customer Union membership renewals
February is our biggest month for Customer Union members to renew their annual membership. That's because the many people who signed up to our original crowdfunder appeal in 2015 all became members in February 2016 when the cooperative was registered.
So, if you are a member of the Customer Union and haven't renewed recently, please look out for your membership renewal email. These are sent automatically so please do let us know if you have changed your email address.
We hope you will renew - it costs just £12 a year. If you have any questions about membership just email us at email@example.com
If you are not yet a member of the Customer Union - why not join us now? For just £12 per year can help us sustain and grow the world's only customer union co-operative.
With best wishes
The Save Our Bank team
Have you joined the Customer Union yet? It costs £12 a year to be a member of the first ever customer union co-operative, and help us ensure the Co-op Bank sticks to its principles. It only takes a few moments to sign up here.