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The case of the Bristol & West loan nightmare

It is with regret and incon-venience that I am writing to advise you of the appalling customer service we have received from Bristol & West.

From our initial mortgage application to date, we have constantly been faced with communication barriers, conflicting information, errors, unreasonable delays and under-trained staff. The majority of telephone contact has been with staff who would benefit from an intensive customer relations training course.

Both Mr Farrell and myself work for UCB Home Loans, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nationwide Building Society. UCB Home Loans is a member of the Institute of Customer Service and the company strives to provide first-class customer service at all times; We have both been in the mortgage business for over 10 years and are in a beneficial position to have a good under-standing of the mortgage market and in particular underwriting criteria/ requirements.

Mr Farrell and myself took a long time in deciding on the most suitable mortgage product and after careful consideration we opted for your company&#39s Mig-free 5.45 per cent fixed rate. Having decided on this product, I contacted your head office to clarify your underwriting criteria. Due to the fact that we had outstanding debts and also guaranteed bonus payments, I took particular attention in your income potential calculation. I would also like it noted that in addition to contacting head office, I also phoned your Croydon branch who confirmed underwriting continuity. Happy in the knowledge that our application fitted your criteria in all respects, a fully packaged application was submitted.

We are both in contact with many mortgage intermediaries and despite being advised by many of them about the service provided by Bristol& West, I naively thought that sending a fully packaged case, investigating and confirming all your underwriting criteria prior to submitting our application that very little, if nothing, could possibly go wrong.

As we were going on holiday on May 14 for three weeks, we decided to submit the application via an intermediary just in case any queries should arise in our absence. However, we incorrectly thought that, as the application was submitted some weeks before our holiday, that we would be in receipt of our mortgage offer prior to our departure. Unfortunately, it took over one week for the initial underwriting decision to be made. At this stage, we were advised via our intermediary that, due to our income and outstanding debts, we were unable to borrow the amount we requested. The amount that could be considered was considerably less than we required. I contacted the under-writing department imm-ediately to try and find out how this calculation had been made. Unfortunately, I was not all-owed to speak directly to the underwriter, which was extremely frustrating as no one else could tell how this had been calculated.

How can a matter get resolved in these circum-stances? For any kind of customer service to be achieved, surely a call centre should be manned with experienced staff that can answer their customers&#39 queries, clarify details or correct any internal errors. At this point, I requested that the valuation be put on hold until the income potential issue was resolved.

The amount of time taken to rectify the income potential problem was completely unsatisfactory, even more so due to the fact that you were in receipt of all relevant infor-mation weeks before the matter was resolved. This resulted in the extreme inconvenience of making lengthy and expensive calls while we were on holiday in America.

Incorrect assumptions were made. For example, it was “decided” that a CSA (car supplementary allowance) deduction, shown on a payslip, stood for Child Support Agency despite our application stating that we had no dependants and subsequently no maintenance payments I can understand that this could be misinterpreted but surely this matter should have been queried immediately, quickly and simply by contacting us?

Better still, being in possession of our authority to obtain employment information, perhaps someone could have taken the initiative and contacted our personnel department and clarified this directly?

Due to the unreasonable amount of time your organi-sation took in resolving this matter, the vendor put the property back on the market and also increased the purchase price by £2,000.

This was done while we were on holiday and he received two offers for the full amount. After much negotiation, we managed to keep the sale but only after agreeing to increase our original offer (the full original purchase price) by an additional £1,000. This resulted in the need to increase our loan amount accordingly – more additional cost, which ultimately would result in repaying interest back to the company which caused this additional expense.

This again happened while on holiday, not only interr-upting our annual leave but also incurring further costs for long-distance calls. Also, due to the time difference, it meant staying up until 3am and then getting up at 8am to coincide with UK office hours, which is far from the ideal situation when you are on holiday.

If the correct course of action had initially been taken, the purchase price would not have been increased, we would not have incurred the additional costs while away and would not have been subjected to the unnecessary stress and inconvenience.

To summarise, the increase in the purchase price and loan amount was as a direct result of the delay caused by your company in calculating our income potential.

Ironically, we will be paying interest back over the next 25 years to the company which incurred us the additional cost in the first place. The phone conduct of staff has been lacking in understanding, knowledge, care and common courtesy in most circumstances.

I look forward to receiving your reply and suggestions on how this long-term relationship can be improved and that this complaint will be handled in accordance with the code of mortgage lending.

Joanna Etheredge




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