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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 December, 2004, 13:06 GMT
A&L defends ISA charge
An Alliance and Leicester branch
Money Box has been contacted by a number of unhappy customers

Alliance & Leicester has been forced to defend its policy of charging ISA customers who want to transfer their money to another provider.

It is the only major ISA provider to impose such a charge, which currently stands at 25.

One customer has even described the policy to BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme as "blackmail" to prevent customers taking their money elsewhere.

A&L Savings Product Manager Nathan Barber-Kebby denied this, and insisted that the charge is made clear to all customers in the terms and conditions they receive before they take out the product.

Speaking to the programme, Mr Barber-Kebby described it as an administration charge and said:

We do make the charge fairly clear when the customer joins us for an ISA
Nathan Barber-Kebby, A&L
"Basically, we have a very labour-intensive process that we have to carry out to meet strict Inland Revenue rules for transferring from one provider to another. So the charge is basically to cover our admin fee."

But all providers have to conform to the same rules, and A&L is the only major provider to impose a charge. On this Mr Barber-Kebby said:

"I cannot really speak for every other bank, but we do make the charge fairly clear when the customer joins us for an ISA. And we did write to all our customers when we implemented [it]."

Donna's dilemma

Donna from Cambridgeshire is one such customer that, according to Mr Barber-Kebby, should have been told about the charge. But, speaking to the programme, she said:

"I was told that the letter had gone out to customers in August 2003. Well I took my ISA out in October. And when I took it out, I was not informed there was any charge."

Mr Barber-Kebby responded by saying that: "I have checked the terms that were applicable at the time and they are clear."

But he did concede: "If the information in our literature can be improved then that is something we will look at."

Faced with the charge, Donna had a dilemma, as she explained:

The last thing that we want to do is take any action that causes customers to leave us
Mr Barber-Kebby, A&L
"Do I transfer the ISA and pay the 25? Do I cash it in and lose my ISA allowance for that year? Or do I stay with the Alliance & Leicester, which I was rather loathe to do because I felt it was blackmail."

And with more than 30 comparable ISAs on the market paying a better rate of interest, Donna was keen to move.

Mr Barber-Kebby said he was sorry Donna felt it was blackmail but that it was "not true at all", and added:

"We have worked hard to attract an awful lot of customers to A&L, and the last thing that we want to do is take any action that causes customers to leave us."

"[The charge] is something we try to make as clear as we can before the customer takes the product out with us."

However, Mr Barber-Kebby said there were no plans to withdraw the charge and continued:

"We have got an awful lot of customers, and we have had very little reaction or complaint from them. So we think they are happy with what we are providing to them."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 4 December, 2004 at 1204 GMT.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 5 December, November, at 2102 GMT.

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