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WatNext Bank plc and the ABSURDA Regulations 2010

absurdaEnough is enough.

I have drafted a new Act of Parliament to save us all from any more imbecility of the part of banks, local authorities, airports and other such organisations who seem to regard our time as theirs to waste.

 Administrative lunacy seems to have become a defining national characteristic and its got to stop.

Welcome to the Administrative and Banking Services(Unreasonable Requests and Delays)Act 2010…or ABSURDA 2010 for short.

Time is very precious. Mine is. Yours is. It’s illegal to waste someone’s time with unsolicited mail and spam. So what about absurd telephone loops, crazy administrative requests, unnecessary forms that take hours read and days to complete, inexplicable airport delays, bureaucratic imbecility of Daliesque proportions?

Enough is enough…it has to stop now before we all go totally mad.

It was last Monday morning that I realised that what we need is a new Citizens Charter to stop the rot.

On my way out of the house at 7.30am, I opened a letter from WetNast Bank. It was a long, official-looking letter asking me to verify my bank account and direct debit details for a charge card, the sixteen digit number of which I didn’t recognise.

I spent the next 15 minutes checking the numbers on all my cards that could possibly be relevant. Not mine. I ran the gauntlet of my wife’s handbag(with her express permission, of course) and after another 10 minutes concluded that it wasn’t any of her cards either.

Alarm bells started to ring. I inspected the letter closely. What a great scam it could be to get people to confirm their account details to some fraudster just waiting at the end of the line with notebook and pencil to the ready.

I had already missed my slot in the rush-hour traffic so I decided to ring my bank using a number different to that given in the letter to verify that the letter was genuine. I listened to the inevitable 5 options, none of which applied so a plumped for Option 5 (“For any other questions choose 5″). You just know that this is the least important option for the bank and that the call will now be routed to a mizzen hut in the back end of beyond and will only be answered when the occupant has come in from feeding the chickens, washed her hands and made a cup of tea. So I was forcibly ‘held in a queue'( this will be illegal under ABSURDA 2010) and, after about 10 minutes, I was rescued fom my solitary dangle by a voice recognisably of the human species that agreed that the letter “was a bit fishy” and that I should call the fraud line the number of which I was then given.

I called. 

By now, I was now about 35 minutes into Hell.

I could only keep going.

I traversed the inevitable ‘options’ offered by the fraud line, none of which was remotely relevant. I opted for Option 4(“For any other question please press 4″). I meekly joined the end of the queue as the call was patched through to the mizzen hut at the end of Stella Gibbon’s garden.

Eventually, a brusque Scot asked me how he could help. I explained about the letter. He went through the usual security checks – mother’s maiden name, what toothpaste did your Great Aunt May use etc. The card number, it transpired, after some lengthy silences and key-board tapping, had indeed been issued in my name. “Well, I haven’t received it, so what do I do now”, I enquired. I would have to be put through to ‘Customer Services’ (lots of laughs) who would be able to advise me.

Another interminable wait. I again explained about the letter asking me to verify my private bank details for a card which had apparently been issued in my name but which I hadn’t received. “Oh no”, said the Voice, “You won’t have received it yet because we haven’t sent the card out yet.” Stunned silence. “Now just let me get this right. You have written to me asking me to verify my bank account and direct debit details for a card number that I do not recognise..because you haven’t issued it yet. Isn’t that a bit…well, daft?”

“Yes, I know”, said the Voice.

“And aren’t you going to get thousands of calls from confused and suspicious customers up and down the land?”

“Yes, I know”, said the Voice.

It was Monday morning and I had wasted over an hour of my time on an imbecilic wild goose chase dreamt up by WetNast Bank.

I have sent them a bill for £265 plus VAT. I expect it to be paid.

….and I have drafted the Administrative and Banking Services(Unreasonable Requests and Delays)Act 2010  that will not only make this kind of institutional inanity illegal, but will also confer upon the individual an automatic right to compensation for the time wasted by such corporate and administrative idiocy. We will all make a bomb out of this.

Section 1 reads:

“If a designated person makes of any relevant addressee a qualifying request and by reason of any act or omission of the designated person:

(i)  the relevant addressee does not have the information reasonably necessary to answer such qualifying request,or

(ii) the time necessary to answer such qualifying request is unreasonable, unconscionable or disproportionate, or

(iii) the designated person does not, at the time of making the qualifying request, provide an adequate explanation of the reason for the request and an estimate of the time expected to be necessary to answer such request and demonstrate that it is reasonable and proportionate, or

(iv) the time estimate provided by the designated person, or the reasonable time if shorter, is exceeded,

the designated person shall have committed an offence and the relevant addressee shall be entitled upon application in writing to the designated person to receive financial compensation.”

Designated persons will include banks and other financial institutions, local authorities, NHS trusts, airport authorities, schools and universities, the Police and all government authorities.


Such an Act of Parliament will save millions of hours of wasted time in this country, will help dig us out of recession, will lead to an immediate improvement in telephone service, will stop compulsory,mindless queuing and telephone loops and act as a much-needed restraint on administrative and corporate imbecility and incompetence.

And I commend this Bill to the House.


  1. Fantastic post Chris – I can highly recommend First Direct – we moved to them from WatNext bank when I was fed up of receiving chocolate & flowers from them saying sorry for YET ANOTHER cock up on my account. You get a proper person answering the line from first direct every time, no ‘pick this option’…

    I find it interesting that there is currently a level of ignorance in the business community about when it is acceptable & when it is not acceptable to add someone’s details to you mailing list. We all hate spam and e-mail cluttering up our inbox, but why do most of us fail to take a stance on unsolicited marketing messages from our business contacts and acquaintances?

    The amount of times I have found that I have been signed up because I have connected with someone on twitter, LinkedIn or given them by business card.

    Anyway, rant over…

  2. Spot on Chris!

    I was mega pi**ed off a few days ago. After each option, before being given the next, i was told that most issues could be resolved by going to the faq section of a website. Not once, but 4 times. I was paying for the call, of course.

  3. Matt Edmundson says:

    Brilliant. I also commend this bill to the house!

  4. Linda Silverman says:

    Add Santander (and all it’s “offspring”) to WatNext Bank!! I have learnt that from now on I will NEVER deal with any organisation that has a dedicated complaints section (how many are they expecting, I ask?) and worryingly, different levels of Complaints sections. Santander has several levels. These are not determined by the type of complaint but if Level One have exhausted their efforts to try and resolve the problem they pass you on to Level Two and so on…. I should add that at each level you have to repeat your problem… and this can go on for days or even weeks as they are always going to phone you back (but hardly ever do)! You have my vote. I was going to suggest you put it forward to the Milliband brothers… but that’s probably a bit too dangerous..

  5. Ian Green says:

    Heartily agree with sentiment although my first thoughts were to rush round with a brown paper bag for you to blow into and a cup of herbal tea to calm you down…but then I had to deal with a similar issue with a pension company for a client so kept the tea for myself and then drank it when I finally came in from the ledge. :-)

    But on a slightly more serious note, with just a hint of self-promotion, one of my major themes when taking on a new client is the promise that they will be able to speak to someone that knows them and their circumstances and they won’t have to press ‘6’ to speak to me :-)

  6. Chris Sherliker says:

    Ah yes. Santander. Maybe another blog “Bartender Bank plc and the Aet of Complaint Management”. Apparently, Floyds Bank tlc had 300,000 complaints in the first 6 months of this year 90% of which were ‘rejected’ by the bank. TY for contributing to the discussion here. X

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