Welcome to this latest newsletter from us at the Customer Union for Ethical Banking, the independent union for Co-operative Bank customers.
Getting charity funds to South Sudan - bank unblocks account
An account used to send charity funds to South Sudan has been unblocked by the Co-op Bank - after we raised the case with the bank. A member of the Customer Union member wanted to send money from the account she uses for funds raised by Opportunity Through Education – a registered charity. The money was to fund places in a struggling school where she used to teach. The charity was able to provide good evidence of how the money would be used, and how it would reach the right destination, but the bank blocked the transfer and also the account, citing various concerns.
After we raised it, managers at the bank investigated further and decided to unblock the account. The bank apologised for the delay, saying that investigations were necessary.
We’re pleased the bank has acted in this case to fix a problem. Our working relationship with the bank has meant we could assist in a complex case involving a genuine charity.
Our next meeting with the bank is in September; do let us know any Ethical Policy issues you would like us to raise.
Home Office responds to Save Our Bank FOI request on bank immigration checks
Following the introduction of new rules in the 2016 Immigration Act requiring banks to check the immigration status of account holders, a customer of the Co-operative Bank raised the issue with the Customer Union to help seek the bank’s view on being effectively asked to ‘police’ immigration.
In its response to the Customer Union, the bank did not give a view but stuck to the facts of what its duties are. This, and a report in the Guardian from May 2018 that the government had decided to “suspend controversial immigration checks on thousands of bank accounts in the wake of the Windrush scandal”, left us wondering what the impact of these checks are. So we wrote a Freedom of Information Request to the Home Office in April asking whether they could confirm whether this suspension remains in place.
The Home Office replied that the provisions of the act “are not yet operating in full due to temporary restrictions introduced whilst we learn the lessons from the difficulties experienced by some members of the Windrush generation and ensure that no-one can inadvertently be erroneously impacted. The banking measures have at no point been suspended.”
The Home Office also explained that 22 accounts were “matched with a duty to close” in the first quarter of 2018, but only two instructions to close accounts had been sent since then (April 2018 to March 2019). The figures cover all UK banks, and the Home Office declined to provide details of which financial institutions had closed accounts. Similar rules requiring immigration checks for housing have been declared discriminatory and in breach of human rights laws by the High Court.
Our view is that these checks should be formally suspended as they are likely to be found discriminatory in a similar way. We call on the home office to do so and urge our supporters to contact their MPsto ask them to support this call.
Co-op Bank wins ‘Most Trusted Mainstream Bank’ award
The Co-op Bank was named the ‘Most Trusted Mainstream Bank’ at the Moneywise Customer Service Awards this month. The award was voted for by 32,000 people from across the UK, making it one of the largest surveys of financial consumers in the country.
Andrew Bester, the bank’s Chief Executive said in a comment to Save Our Bank, “This fantastic award is recognition of everything we do as an ethical bank, from our products and services, to our close relationships with customers. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we couldn’t have achieved this award without their ongoing support and guidance. On behalf of us all at The Co-operative Bank I want to thank our customers for continuing to put their trust in us.”
The bank was also ‘highly commended’ for Best Branch Service, Best Contact Centre Service and Most Trusted Current Account. First Direct picked up the “top prize” of Most Trusted Company, and there were also awards for Nationwide and Zopa. You can see the full results here.
Bank releases Values and Ethics report
The bank has released its Values and Ethics Report for 2018. It's a vital part of our purpose to make sure the bank sticks to its commitments on ethics and we’ll be reviewing this report in full in our next newsletter.
Customer Union membership and renewals
We’re entirely independent of the bank, and rely on income from membership fees and donations to operate the Customer Union and hold the bank to account on ethics and ownership. 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.
If you are a member of the Customer Union, please do look out for your membership renewal email - sent out automatically by our system. If you have any questions about membership just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.