Barclays stockbroking: not so smart

Exasperated man with a laptop © iStockphotos
Enough to make you want to tear your hair out

Barclays has managed to infuriate thousands of its customers with the launch of its new stockbroking service. The bank moved 200,000 customer accounts onto its new Smart Investor platform in August, but as many as 4,000 customers have had to ask for their login details to be reissued, as they haven’t been able to log on to the service. When people tried to call the Barclays helpline, they found themselves in queues that lasted for up to two hours, and the bank’s “Live Chat” service has been derided as being “utterly useless”.

In an effort to resolve the problem, Barclays has doubled the number of people answering the helpline and offered to charge customers the equivalent of online trading fees if they want to make telephone trades while they can’t access their online account. But even if you have managed to log in, you may still be unhappy. In an effort to simplify the site and appeal to beginners, Barclays has removed many of the features that active share dealers value, such as live intraday stock pricing, the ability to search via tickers and the option to change stop-loss orders. Customers can also no longer trade in overseas shares or covered warrants (a type of derivative).

Finally, Barclays has also upped the cost for many clients. On the old site, you paid a flat fee of £36 a year to hold shares, with dealing charges on top of that. Now you pay a percentage fee based on the value of your portfolio – 0.1% on shares and 0.2% on funds, with a minimum of £48 per year. Dealing charges are still levied on top, but these have been reduced. Again, this is geared towards people with smaller portfolios, but those with large balances will feel the sting. For example, someone with a £200,000 share portfolio who trades once a month will now pay £272 a year, almost £100 more than before. Below, we look at what to do if you’re fed up with Barclays’ new offering.

What to do if you want to switch providers

Leaving Barclays’ stockbroking service may not be simple in the short term. It is struggling to deal with the volume of clients leaving, and some have been told it could be up to three months before their transfer request can be processed due to the bottleneck. In response to complaints, Barclays is allowing customers who are in the process of leaving to continue trading on their account but only by phone.

If you are having problems, your first port of call should be Barclays. You shouldn’t face major problems getting through now that the bank has added plenty of staff to its call centres – call 0800-279 3667. Some customers are even trying to form a group and launch a joint legal action against Barclays, according to Citywire. But a cheaper option, if you feel you have suffered financially, is to place a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman by calling 0800-023 4567. If your complaint is upheld you may be compensated, but you must have raised your problem directly with Barclays first.

Finally, if you are looking for another online broker, you could consider moving to rivals such as AJ Bell Youinvest, Charles Stanley Direct, Hargreaves Lansdown, Interactive Investor, Selftrade or the Share Centre. Investors with large portfolios are especially likely to save by jumping ship – someone making 12 trades a year on a £250,000 portfolio would save £150 a year by moving from Barclays to AJ Bell Youinvest, Hargreaves Lansdown or Interactive Investor, estimates consultancy firm The Lang Cat. AJ Bell Youinvest says it has already seen significant increases in the number of people transferring over from Barclays since the latter’s new site was launched.

In the news…

► If you are unlucky enough to have booked a flight or holiday with Monarch (the UK airline which went into administration this week), you can check your rights on the dedicated website (Monarch.caa.co.uk) or call their 24-hour helpline (0300-303 2800 in the UK; +44 1753 330 330 from overseas). Essentially, however, if you’re a Monarch customer, already abroad, and due to fly home on or before 15 October, the Civil Aviation Authority will ensure you get home, says MoneySavingExpert.

If you’re due to fly back after then, check if you’re covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol). Package holidays booked directly with Monarch Holidays are Atol protected, so a full refund will be issued. If you booked a Monarch flight on or before 14 December 2016 you should be covered, too. However, if you bought your flight after that date, you won’t be protected by Atol – you’ll have to book your own flight home and then try and make a claim from your credit-card firm under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, via your travel insurer or Paypal. Finally, if you paid on a debit card, try asking for chargeback – this is where the issuer reclaims money from the retailer’s bank. This is a customer service promise rather than a legal requirement, but it’s still worth a try.

► Price-comparison sites are meant to make life simpler and cheaper, but using the wrong one could mean you pay way over the odds, reports the Financial Times. The Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating whether Compare the Market is striking deals with home insurers to prevent them from selling cover more cheaply elsewhere – but the “most shocking thing” in its wider report is that many consumers believe these sites are “unbiased and run for their benefit”. They’re not. Their services are free because they charge commission to suppliers when we sign up via their platform. Ultimately, the fortunes spent by price-comparison sites on marketing and commission payments gets passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. It would make more sense to simply reward customer loyalty.