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    BEN WILKINSON: Stop letting feeble firms get away with shoddy service

    BEN WILKINSON: Stop letting feeble firms get away with shoddy service… take your business elsewhere

    Your reaction to our story on poor customer service during the pandemic was loud and clear.

    There is no reason for companies to be treating their customers so poorly. And now no excuse for forcing shoppers to wait weeks, or even months, for answers or money back.

    Money Mail’s postbag was stuffed with letters from readers who had been brushed off and ignored in 2020 by big businesses that should, and could, do better.

    Frustration: There is now no excuse for companies forcing shoppers to wait weeks, or even months, for answers or money back

    The virus crisis has obviously hit firms hard, but why can some adapt while others continue to make excuses?

    Some have gone above and beyond this year, and others have performed truly pitifully.

    National Savings & Investments, for example, suffered a customer service meltdown. Chief executive Ian Ackerley has now made it clear that he knew it was unacceptable and has made a grovelling apology.

    Personally, I have some sympathy for NS&I. The bank, which has some 25 million customers, was bombarded with a record amount of money and custom because it was the only one to offer fair rates on savings this summer.

    Sadly, the majority of callers now attempting to reach NS&I will be trying to pull out their money after the savings giant announced it is slashing its rates in November.

    Other firms have no such defence. However, what’s clear is that frustrated readers felt they had nowhere to turn to fix their problems. Some firms just seem not to care – and they are getting away with it.

    So for now, it’s another reminder from us at Money Mail: if you do not like the service you’re getting, take your business elsewhere. And warn your friends and family away, too. We will continue to name and shame firms that let you down.

    Property pension

    For a long time, young savers could only start thinking about squirreling away savings for a pension once they were firmly on the property ladder.

    But the disappearance of generous final-salary schemes forced the country to wake up and act to mitigate a retirement crisis. Auto-enrolment was the answer.

    And, since 2012, millions more workers have been saving for retirement without thinking – and have the added benefit of employer contributions and tax relief. The crisis has not been averted, but we are on the right track.

    Yet now, in addition, we have a first-time buyers’ property crisis. Homes are far too expensive when compared to wages, and mortgage deals for those with small deposits have all but vanished.

    So Pensions Minister Guy Opperman this week said he was interested in ways in which pension savings could be used to get young buyers their first homes. The pensions industry immediately reacted with derision.

    Experts said this would ignite the retirement savings crisis and drive up the price of property.

    And it’s true, the Government’s previous efforts to fix the housing problem have seen bumper profits for developers and very little else – leaving many new homeowners in badly built, overpriced houses.

    In light of that, the safest thing to do is probably to leave pension pots be. Let’s not try to fix one problem by creating another.

    Retirement worry

    We continue to receive many emails and letters about the scandal that has seen possibly tens of thousands of women underpaid their state pensions.

    We cannot reply to all, but we do read them. And we’ve lost count of the amount of money readers have won back from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

    Too many of you are confused by what you are entitled to, and why you have been denied a better pension. 

    The woeful oversights revealed by this scandal mean pensioners have every reason to suspect an error.

    The DWP needs to clear up the confusion once and for all, and give pensioners the stress-free retirement they’ve earned.

    Pension expert Steve Webb’s petition, which calls on the DWP to scour its records to find all of the women missing out, is nearing its target of 10,000 signatures. 

    To sign and force the Government to respond, visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/334388.

    [email protected]

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