Costs of not resolving a complaint

Hugh first used a prepaid travel card while travelling in the UK in 2014. The last time he used the card was in Canada in July 2018. Hugh printed a copy of his currency balances on the travel card in August 2019.

In July 2022, Hugh checked his balance online and noted suspicious payments to a company in London in March 2021 (the “disputed transactions”). The disputed transactions, including currency conversion fees, totalled approximately $1,500. Hugh was alarmed as he had not made the transactions and had not been in the UK since his 2014 trip. He made a police report and notified the prepaid travel card provider (“the card provider”). The card provider asked Hugh to complete a disputed transaction form. Hugh sent the form to the card provider over four times, but the card provider said they had not received it. Hugh complained to FSCL and said that he would like to close his account and withdraw the funds.

FSCL sent Hugh’s complaint to the card provider’s internal complaints process. The card provider told Hugh that they would credit his account with the disputed transactions and associated fees. Hugh said that the credit would partly resolve his complaint, but he remained concerned that the statements did not make sense due to the differences between the August 2019 and July 2022 statements. In particular, the GBP, USD, and EUR currencies had been entirely depleted, and the CAD currency had significantly decreased.

We asked the card provider to explain the balances to Hugh. In response, the card provider sent a spreadsheet with the full transaction history but did not further explain what had happened with his account. Hugh requested a further explanation, but the card provider only resent the spreadsheet.

During their investigation, the card provider deposited the disputed transaction funds into Hugh’s account. However, there was a $100 discrepancy. We asked the card provider to explain the missing $100, but they only provided the original spreadsheet.

The card provider’s response did not resolve Hugh’s complaint, so we started our investigation.

Dispute

Hugh complained that the card provider had failed to respond when he requested an explanation for the differences in the various currencies on his account since 2019. He said the card provider’s communication had been poor, causing him stress and inconvenience. To resolve his complaint, Hugh wanted the $100 discrepancy to be paid, compensation for the monthly fees charged since he first asked to close his account, and acknowledgement of the stress and inconvenience the process had caused.

The card provider did not respond to the complaint other than sending the same spreadsheet on three occasions, so it was difficult to know their view. It appeared that the card provider considered they had given Hugh the raw data he needed to explain the account issues.

Review

We found it was likely that the disputed transactions had first pulled from the smaller balances of GBP, EUR, and USD on Hugh’s account, depleting them entirely. When those funds were exhausted, the disputed transactions drew from the CAD balance, resulting in the balance being reduced. The card provider did not dispute our view. In our view, the card provider had ample opportunity and resources to explain the account balances to Hugh themselves. If they had done so, they would have alleviated the stress and inconvenience that Hugh experienced, and also likely resolved his complaint.

We acknowledged that Hugh asked the card provider to close the account after he discovered the disputed transactions, and he would not have incurred monthly fees if the card provider had done so. We considered it fair for the card provider to compensate Hugh for the relevant monthly fees.

The card provider did not explain the discrepancy in the refund of the disputed transactions so we found that they should pay Hugh the $100 difference.

We found that the card provider’s poor communication had caused Hugh significant stress and inconvenience. The card provider had multiple opportunities to explain Hugh’s account to him. Instead, they only resent the complicated spreadsheet. We noted that if the card provider had made a proper effort to address Hugh’s concerns sooner and cooperated with our process, the complaint likely would have been resolved before we needed to become involved, saving everyone time and expense. We found that $500 was appropriate as compensation for Hugh’s stress and inconvenience.

Resolution

We decided that the card provider should pay Hugh approximately $650 for the discrepancy in the refund, the monthly fees, and the stress and inconvenience. Hugh accepted our decision. The card provider did not respond, so we upheld our decision and the card provider paid the compensation.

Insights for participants

FSCL participants should make a genuine effort to resolve complaints through their internal complaints process when it is first referred to them. Information should be explained to customers rather than asking the customer to look at the raw data themselves. Resolving a complaint at the first instance will save everyone time and money.