Lloyds Bank wrongly declares customer DEAD, closing his account and cancelling all his direct debits
A Lloyds account holder was wrongly declared dead by the high street bank after data from the death notification service was misread by the lender, resulting in the customer having his account closed and his direct debits cancelled.
John Hill from Devon got in touch with MoneySavingExpert (MSE) after discovering his online bank account had been closed. He made the discovery after receiving various emails from his utility providers informing him that his direct debits had been cancelled.
Mr Hill told MSE: "I immediately rang the bank but the automated system put my number through to the bereavement team.
"It is then that I learnt Lloyds had been contacted by a company called Fraser and Fraser, who it turns out are a company of genealogists and probate researchers. Fraser and Fraser informed Lloyds about the supposed death of someone with a similar name to mine."
Lloyds said the closure was the result of a mix up internally and that it had apologised to Mr Hill and offered him £525 in compensation.
A spokesperson for the bank said: "Initially, when we received the notification of the passing of a ‘John Hill’ through the death notification service, a colleague reviewed the details provided so they could match the information against any associated accounts. In this case, it’s clear our colleague did not check the records thoroughly enough, placing markers on the account of our customer incorrectly."
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Lloyds said it unblocked the account as soon as it was notified of the error but Mr Hill said the account remained largely inaccessible for more than a week.
Mr Hill told MSE: "It was well over a week before I had full access to my account as they (Lloyds) had to issue a new cash debit and credit card, as well as the subsequent pin numbers that come with these. I also had to wait for all my new internet banking details and access codes. I was unable to access my cash for over a week."
Mr Hill said Lloyds was also unable to reinstate all of his direct debits, meaning he had to set many of them up manually. "It's incredibly frustrating and time-consuming," he said.
Lloyds, however, did provide Mr Hill with a list of third parties who he previously had direct debits with (see the correspondence below from Lloyds to Mr Hill).
Mr Hill also became liable for a late payment fee of £25 from his credit card provider as a result of his account being closed. But this was later waived by the card issuer.
Mr Hill said: "I have spent hours on the phone to the bank and other companies. Lloyds offered me £50 for my call charges and initially £100 for my hassle, which has since risen to £525 (see correspondence below between Lloyds and Mr Hill), but this does little to bring back the time I've lost fussing over this situation."
Fraser and Fraser believes only two similar instances of mistaken identification have occurred in the last three years.
A spokesperson for Fraser and Fraser said: "Since the Death Notification Service commenced in 2018, we have placed thousands of notifications and we are aware of only two instances of mistaken identification like this one. I believe the system was used to make more than 174,541 notifications to banks in 2020."
A Lloyds Bank spokesperson added: “We are extremely sorry to Mr Hill for the distress and inconvenience this has caused him. While we can say this is an isolated incident, we want to make sure this never happens again, and we’ve worked hard behind the scenes to understand what went wrong.
"In the meantime, we have done all we can to reassure Mr Hill he will not be left out of pocket as a result of our mistake, and offered a payment in recognition of the distress this experience has caused.”
Chris Newlands, news and investigations editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "The death notification service is there to help loved ones report someone's passing to several banks, building societies and other financial firms via just one free online form. And though rare, this is one whopping case of mistaken identity.
"Whatever the circumstance, if you feel you've not received good customer service from your bank in their response to a complaint, then your best option is to contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) which can help settle disputes between financial firms and their customers."
If you have complained to your bank and have not received a satisfactory response then your best option is to contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
The FOS can settle disputes between financial firms and their customers, including problems with bank accounts, credit cards and insurance.
If you have not received a satisfactory response from your provider you can escalate any issues to the ombudsman. If the ombudsman decides in a consumer's favour, it can order your provider to pay compensation.
See our Financial Ombudsman guide for more info on your financial rights and how to make a complaint.
However, if you have recently lost a loved one and need some guidance on the steps to take, visit our What to do When Someone Dies guide.