MPs are seeking answers from savings giant NS&I following a string of complaints.
The chair of the Treasury Committee Mel Stride has written to NS&I’s chief executive Ian Ackerley following indications that consumer satisfaction levels with the provider of Premium Bonds and other saving products are low.
The committee highlighted “dramatic cuts” that NS&I, which is backed by the Treasury, has made to its savings products as well as a recently-postponed decision to stop paying Premium Bond winners using warrants, which are like cheques.
In early December, NS&I (National Savings and Investments) said it is delaying its planned phase-out of Premium Bonds prize warrants because some customers have struggled to contact the provider.
Instead of phasing out the use of the warrants from the December 2020 prize draw, this will now happen from spring 2021.
The letter from Mr Stride says: “Consumer websites are indicating low levels of customer satisfaction with NS&I, with the NS&I website currently including a banner apologising to customers if they have been experiencing difficulties with getting in touch.
“According to NS&I’s own statistics, the six months ending September 30 2020 witnessed a 43% increase in complaints compared to the preceding six months.
“The dramatic cuts that NS&I have made to their interest rates on savings products have also resulted in significant outflows of deposits in recent months, and a great deal of anxiety on the part of customers.
“In addition, NS&I’s plans to end payments of Premium Bond winnings by cheque in 2021 may increase risks for vulnerable consumers with limited access to the internet.”
The “call us” section of NS&I’s website says: “We haven’t got as many of our customer service team available as usual, so please do everything you can online. Only contact us if you absolutely have to, and remember it will take us longer than usual to get back to you.”
Commenting on the correspondence, Mr Stride said: “Whilst NS&I took steps to keep service levels up during the pandemic, they appear to have been unsuccessful.
“The decision to stop paying Premium Bond winners by cheque will be particularly concerning to vulnerable consumers.
“I am also seeking clarity around last week’s grant of urgent additional funding from the taxpayer for NS&I.
“I’ve written to Mr Ackerley to see what reassurances he can provide to the committee.”