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Blind investor holds protest outside Skipton Building Society
11:18am Thursday 26th July 2012 in News
A 71-year-old blind customer of Skipton Building Society staged a protest outside its town centre branch this week.
Campaigner Colin Bennett travelled 300 miles from his home in Hove, East Sussex, to Skipton where he spent two full days outside its High Street office.
Mr Bennett, who was carrying a board with the words ‘Skipton BS, Do You Rip Off Blind Investors?’, said he was protesting against the failure of the society to communicate with him by email - which he can enlarge to read.
Mr Bennett claimed the society’s failure to communicate with him in a way he could understand directly led to him being unaware of changes made to his longstanding account and a loss of around £1,000.
In 2008, he was sent a letter detailing the transfer of his account to an easy- access one with a far lower rate of interest - but because it was in small print, he was unaware of the changes.
He added the letter came three years after the society agreed - following his complaint to the financial ombudsman - to deal “reasonably” with visually impaired people.
“In 2005 it was agreed by the society to communicate with me by email, which I can blow up and read, or by telephone, but they continue to write to me by letter in small print, which I cannot read,” said Mr Bennett, who has been with the society for 19 years.
He said the society, which was aware of his sight problems, should have sent him such important information in a format he could have read.
“I cope with my sight problems in the way that many visually impaired people do. I request large print, telephone calls or emails and try to cope with material not in those formats by employing readers,” he said.
But readers were expensive and not always available.
“As far as I can make out, the society had the intention to deal reasonably with visually impaired people, but this has not always resulted in appropriate action, despite the passage of years.”
Mr Bennett, who has a degenerative eye disease and tunnel vision, left home on Monday and travelled by underground and train to Leeds, via Kings Cross, and on to Skipton where he booked into a bed and breakfast.
He said his trip, which he carried out alone but with the help of people he met on the way, had cost him around £180, but it was worth it if the society finally took notice of him.
Mr Bennett said he was asking the society to make amends from the transfer of 2008.
“Since I have had money tied up with the society for so many years in long term bonds, and since they should have deduced that I couldn’t have read the small print information, they should have checked with me by other means as to what my intentions were,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Skipton Building Society told the Herald she could not comment on Mr Bennett’s individual case because of confidentiality reasons.
“However, we recognise his right to express an opinion, we are dealing with his complaint in the appropriate way, through our normal channels,” she added.