Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Uncooperative Bank

Update: 9 August 09. The Co-operative Bank first received a latter about this on Tuesday, 26 May 2009. Since then they have received three more letters (including letters to David Anderson, the Bank's Chief Executive, and Dick Parkhouse, the Bank's Managing Director, both on Thursday, 16 July 2009). And they still have not replied, apart from acknowledgement letters. 46 days without responding - surely that is a record for poor customer service? It is an insult to their customers that the Bank care so little for their opinions.

Because the Bank has done nothing, we have gone ahead with promotion of this issue. We have now reached the point were a Google search for 'co-operative bank card readers' brings us up on the first page of results, and this site has been receiving a huge number of hits. We have also started sending details to media agencies who might want to cover the story. When will large organisations learn that it is in their best interests to listen to customers rather than frustrate them?

We asked a question

The Co-operative Bank has been talking about its new Chip and PIN Card Reader scheme, which forces people at home to use electronic, battery operated devices if they want to use the main online banking services.

Yet more unnecessary gadgets clutter the world...

To begin with the bank has bought 300,000 'Xiring Xi-Sign 4000 Home Chip and PIN authentication card readers' - representing a huge amount of unnecessary electronics and batteries. And that is just the beginning - after this trial they will be purchasing even more, in one of the biggest examples of corporate creation of electronic toxic waste seen in recent years.

Mounds of waste batteries from Europe - the Co-op's card readers are battery powered

The back of the new devices. Note that the devices are too hazardous to be included with normal waste (the 'no bin' symbol'). Also that they are made in China ('PRC' - 'People's Republic of China') - a country not known for being responsibile with regards to human rights. Where is the Co-operative Bank's ethical policy now?

The Co-operative Bank used to be lauded for its ethical policy - but a look at its website today showed that there were 65 links from the homepage, and not one of them was about them having an ethical policy. The thing the bank used to shout about seems to have become something they are sweeping aside as they grow, and this decision to create further markets for electronic devices with limited lifespans is perhaps the strongest sign yet that they have given up on really caring about the environment. At a time when society should be cutting back on non-vital electrical goods, and should be avoiding use of batteries altogether (for sound environmental reasons) it is irresponsible of the Bank to introduce a system that potentially involves the creation of millions of harmful electronic products with plans to keep using the system into the future. One could also ask what are the recycling issues involved - the recycling industry is already completely unable to cope with the amount of electrical waste we produce. There is nothing on the website about recycling the Card Readers or returning them.

So the bank gains their first crap for hypocrisy, in telling the customer one thing ('we care about the environment') whilst doing the opposite ('let's come up with a system that means yet more limited-lifespan, battery-operated electronic devices in every home!').

NB: The batteries are not even replaceable. The whole device has to be thrown away when they run out.

NB2: The scheme is a nonsense from a security point of view. If someone had sufficient details to login to your account online, they would be able to use phone banking to do exactly the same things, which shows how ill-thought out the whole scheme is, and what a dangerously false sense of security it gives.

The next way in which the bank earns a crap is that there was no consultation with Co-op Bank customers before committing them to this scheme. What happened to the bank's claims to treat customers as stakeholders? Forgotten, apparently. So as well as the fact that customers were not allowed to voice their environmental concerns, their legitimate usage concerns were also ignored. This seems to be a system designed to make online banking slower and less convenient - which is taking a step back to the 1990's. I mean, read this. All that hassle, cards and card readers and typing yet more digits into a device then into a web page... It is a nonsense. As their own email about the devices says:
Always ensure your Card Reader is safe and keep it within easy reach whenever you need to manage your Co-operative Bank account online.
Not exactly convenient, and hardly condusive to a modern world of ubiquitous connectivity using mobile devices. So even their most loyal customers are forced into a choice between supporting this kind of waste; having to use phone banking for bank transfers (which involves canned music and having to put up with the bank irresponsibly trying to encourage you to take out further loans at the end of every call); or switching Bank to one which is not so wasteful and arrogant. So another crap from the bank:

Next - the bank's decision to remove any option to opt out, and to ignore the customers' wishes about this.

Is it possible to choose to continue using all of online banking without using these wasteful devices?


Is it possible to even choose not to receive a device if you have no intention of using it?

No. It gets sent to you automatically. The household of the CCS member who informed us of this had received THREE of the devices. How wasteful is that?

But surely if you write to the bank, you can choose not to receive one, and 'just' lose out on being able to have a smooth online banking experience?

No again. On the 26th May 09, a CCS member had written to The Co-operative Bank, and ended their letter with the very specific:
"That fact that the Bank will send these devices to people without asking them first if they want one is a wasteful and irresponsible policy. I absolutely do not want one sending to me."
Could that be any clearer? Surprise surprise, they got an email on 3rd July 09, saying "Your Card Reader will arrive in the next 10 days". And lo, the device turned up a few days after that. So even with 38 days' notice the bank still insisted on sending one out. So for giving customers no options, the bank receives another crap.

The final crap is for brushing the whole issue under the carpet. A CCS member wrote to the bank complaining about these issues on Tuesday, 26 May 2009. On 10 June 09 they got a reply saying the bank would look into it. Then they got another letter on 30 June 09, saying the bank was still looking into it. Then they received the device they had stated they did not want. The bank is obviously not taking the issue seriously, which sounds like Crappy Customer Service to us.

Who in the bank is responsible for this horrible system? What team came up with the daft ideas? The emails saying you will receive the device come from 'Sean Barton, eBusiness', so maybe the eBusiness team is the one which came up with this nonsense. Perhaps someone in that team has got shares in electronics and battery companies. It is a poor show.

The Co-operative Bank's current score:

As ever, CCS have been in touch with the The Co-operative Bank and will post any updates here.

We have started getting in touch with the news media to try and get them to pick up on this story. The next step after that would be contacting environmental and social justice charities and warning them about the issues above, so that they might want to consider banking elsewhere. If banks persist with bad plans then only by attacking their profits and their image can they be encouraged to see sense. Until this fiasco the Co-operative Bank had always been a good bank to work with, so it would be a shame to put people off them unless they continue with this ridiculous and wasteful scheme.

The growing problem of electronics waste

Electronics waste, coming soon to a pile near you



i could not agree with you more . i sent an e-mail about this to david anderson , which was just passed on to and assistant , and more or less ignored .
and a co-operative plc is a contradiction in terms !

Anonymous said...

If they worked it would help a bit! Bloody nuisance.

Anonymous said...

It's especially useless if you need to manage your account when abroad, or simply away from your home. It's the very opposite of mobile banking!

rob leach said...

Apart from mobile banking the co-operative bank - which I have had accounts and visa cards with for 40 years - also makes a complete nonsense of chasing visa debts. Last November I owed £5 on a visa card, and was chased eleven times by a robot call saying 'this is an important message from the co-operative bank' which asked me to enter the 16 digit number followed by my credit limit (which I didn't know) or the amount of my latest transaction (which I didn't have with me as away from home). I complained and was told that by their 'executive consultant that this was indeed excessive. Last month the same thing happened and I was telephoned 23 times. I complained again and was basically told to sod off.

Anonymous said...

It is a stupid device and totally unecessary. Any thoughts as to how to put pressure on the bank to get rid of it. Even the staff do not like it

Anonymous said...

My partner and I recently opened a joint bank account with the co-op thinking we were doing the right thing, ethically speaking, and we have had no end of trouble ever since.

Their direct debit "switching" service offers to take all the hassle out of moving banks yet we had to phone every single one of our DD companies and tell them our new bank account details!

Co-op haven't even apologized..

As for their online banking service.. Pah! Real time..!? What a joke! We've had enough and are switching...

Anonymous said...

COOP Bank is a joke I bought a watch using my credit card supposed to be covered under section 75 UK Law COOP bank don't want to know they are rude and a joke!!!!

Jim Dignan said...

I quite agree. As ex-members of the Co-op Bank (appalling service with regard to my mother's Power of Attorney), we have returned our 3 unsolicited card readers to them with instructions that they should take responsibility for them and recycle them responsibly.
We also suggested that they should set up a recycling scheme and advertise it to all their customers.
Their Head Office address is: Co-operative Bank plc
PO Box 101
1 Balloon Street
M60 4EP

CCS said...

Thanks Jim - sorry to hear about your hassles, and thanks for the good suggestion!