Banks agree measures to slash deceased mailings

grave 2The UK’s biggest banks and building societies have bowed to pressure to overhaul the way they deal with bereaved customers, in a move which also aims to combat the tens of millions of mailings which are sent to dead people every year.
The new code of practice is the result of a nine-month consultation by a bereavement taskforce set up by financial trade body the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) in response to a campaign by Money Mail.
This exposed how high street banks had been leaving relatives waiting for years to get money back and how many still receive letters addressed to loved ones who died years earlier.
Under the code, banks have promised to trial a new service, allowing relatives to cancel accounts in a single step, early next year and will be obliged to inform their marketing departments more quickly to stop direct mail being addressed to the deceased.
However, the BBA admits that some mail may still slip through the net if it has already been prepared.
According to Bereavement Register estimates, 64 million pieces of direct mail are sent to dead people every year – with individuals likely to receive over 100 items of direct mail during the first 12 months following their death.
Meanwhile, a recent study by data specialists Wilmington Millennium showed deceased identity fraud and mail theft are second and third only to stealing someone’s wallet as the favoured method for criminals to access consumers’ personal information.
David Oldfield, group director of retail banking at Lloyds, said: “It was clear that we could and should make improvements, and I have led a dedicated team to bring about marked changes to our policies and procedures. Our focus and commitment to getting this right remain absolute.”
Under the new rules, banks and building societies will have to retrain all of their staff, so that everyone who deals with customers knows how to register a death. They will be taught how to deal with customers empathetically to make the process easier for them.
Firms will also have to allow customers to contact them by phone, online and in branch. Most have promised to offer a dedicated phone line for people to call.
But perhaps the biggest reform is that if a deceased customer has more than one account with a bank or another of its brands, relatives will have to tell only one firm about the death. Staff will then search their computer system to find the customer’s name and tell the others for you. The eventual aim is to roll out an industry-wide Tell Us Once service.
Mandy Griffin, of Nationwide and chair of the BBA’s Bereavement Working Group, said: “The new bereavement principles will give greater support to families at the most distressing time, and make the process of notifying financial organisations of the death of a loved one much easier.”

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