Premium Bonds as Gifts
Not so long ago it was not unusual for parents or grandparents to buy Premium Bonds as gifts to celebrate birthdays and other memorable occasions for the children. The Post Office managed the scheme and one had just to get a form from the Post Office, fill it in and submit back to the Post Office. Not so today!! The scheme is now managed by NS&I (National Savings and Investment) based in Scotland. You can obtain an application form from their website and here is where the problems start.
Making an Application with NS&I
To follow directions to access the form is complicated and not easy to find. The form itself is very complicated to complete and requires a concentrated effort. In this case a Grandfather was applying for Premium Bonds to the value of £100 for each of his six grandchildren aged between 6 months and 20 years. Not only is it necessary to provide full details of the child and the grandparent, but also the parents, who, on the face of it, are not really involved are they? A cheque for the fee is submitted with the application in an envelope which one is advised to address to NS & I (no other details and no stamp required). Then you wait …
What Happened Next?
It was brought to our attention that for children above the age of 16 the fee must be submitted from their own resources, either by cheque or transfer from their own Building Society account or similar. So that means it is no longer possible for a parent or grandparent to make a present of Premium Bonds to the children, as the money has to come from the child’s own account. Secondly, as none of their grandchildren above 16 had their own account, the plan failed and Granddad just had to make a gift of the money to each instead.
As for the children under 16 years old, the applications were held pending the submission of certified copies of the birth certificates. As Granddad had issued a cheque to cover more than one application caught up in the above complexities, the cheque was returned and new forms had to be submitted.
At this time four of the six applications have now been withdrawn, leaving only two remaining which are still in the process.
The NS & I then got in touch with one group of parents to say they could not accept the certified copy of the child’s birth certificate because “the certifier did not provide their occupation and daytime telephone number”. At no point were the parents told that a certified copy required the persons occupation and daytime phone number.
In actual fact the birth certificate submitted was signed by a lawyer, and the lawyer had included their SRA number (Solicitors Regulatory Authority), which regulates solicitors in England and Wales. Armed with this SRA number, the NS&I’s customer services manager could have made a quick 5 seconds google search which would have returned to them the lawyers name, occupation, daytime telephone number, and address … all the information they asked for.
Ok so maybe the NS&I customer service managed doesn’t know what a SRA number is, fair enough. At this point they could have got in touch with the parents and asked them to re-submit the birth certificate with the necessary information. A simple 2 sentance email, or a quick 2 minute phone call would have done the job, but no, instead they decided to cancel the application completely and refund the money! Don’t forget this was meant to be a Christmas present from a Grandfather to his Granddaughter, and now that gift had been denied due to unnecessarily churlish bureaucracy and a simple lack of common sense and communication with the customer.
The application was made in November 2017, cancelled by NS & I in December. A complaint was immediately raised on 23rd December by the customer, and 2 months later NS&I responded in writing saying the same thing they said before “the certifier did not provide their occupation and daytime telephone number”. They completely ignored the point about the SRA number, and their excuse for canceling the application was that it expired.
The NS&I clearly don’t care about new business, or their customers enough to contact them about any issues to do with their bureaucratic application process.
The scheme is broken
The sale of Premium Bonds was a Government initiative, created as a source of revenue. Has this changed? We would also like to know how much the administration of the current scheme costs against what we had before which was an efficient and expedient method through the Post Office.