Ordering online? Your address could leave you flat

Orders may be flat-lined

Orders may be flat-lined

If you live in a flat conversion, did you know you could end up missing out on top deals because many retailers won’t recognise your address, which could mean you fail a credit check?

I’m still waiting for an application for an online savings account to go through two weeks in, because the bank’s application form did not allow me to state I not only live on a particular number on a street but also in a particular flat at that property. I was only able to input the property number.

I was asked to post alternative ID, and a customer services agent said the problem in verifying my identity was most likely down to the address.

I’m lucky. It’ll probably all be fine once the bureaucracy is over, even though I’ve lost a few days’ interest at the higher rate this account offers.

But others who need their application to go through straight away, say, to get cashback on an online deal or where there’s a strict time limit, may not be so lucky.

Even the fortunate ones like me are still burdened with onerous form-filling and waiting for post.

What’s the issue?

The problem mainly affects the approximately 700,000 people who live in a property that has been converted into multiple flats (see the Address snag news story).

These flats do not usually have individual entries on Royal Mail’s primary database, which many companies use to find an address via a postcode search. They will often only find the building the flat is part of.

Say you live in Flat 3 on number 1 Oxford Street, which used to be a large house since converted into flats, it is likely Royal Mail only lists the address as 1 Oxford Street on its main database.

Credit agencies used by firms to verify a person’s identity may not link the address given with that held by a bank or credit card company. Where the two don’t match precisely, any application or order could be rejected or referred.

Royal Mail only lists individual “delivery points” on its main database. For a flat conversion this would be any door with a post box that can be accessed from the street.

Those who live in a purpose-built block of flats are largely unaffected as Royal Mail says it recognises such addresses.

Who’s to blame?

Retailers and banks don’t always help. All they need is a separate editable box on the address part of forms to allow applicants to enter their flat number. Many do this, but many don’t.

Royal Mail says it operates a secondary database companies can buy that includes individual flats but it doesn’t list all properties. Even then, not all retailers purchase this secondary list.

Until address-finding databases come into the 21st century, or online forms become flexible to cope with them, us flatites are a bit stuck.

Has this happened to you? Let us know in the comments section below or in the MSE Forum.