Beware: this is a rant! CGD returns withdrawn money to its clients

You know what: Portugal is really becoming  a 3rd world country…Just take a look at this.  It’s only another sad episode that happened here. I’ll translate since it’s in Portuguese. It says something like this: CDG (Caixa Geral Depositos) returns money that it had withdrawn from the  client’s accounts without any warning. What happened? Ok, I’ll explain. A few years ago the government decided to help those that earned less to buy a house. In practice, what this means is that the state would help you pay your monthly mortgage if your income didn’t reach a certain threshold. Until 2007, you’d have to deliver the previous year’s IRS declaration to the bank so that they could perform the calculations and see if you’re still eligible for that help.

From 2007 onwards, credit institutions started communicating directly with finances. So, everyone stopped delivering the IRS declarations to the bank. My mother was one of people who got this kind of credit approved ten years ago. Last week, she received a letter from the bank saying that there had been some problems with its system and that some people might be paying more that they should and others were paying less. The letter mentioned that this problem had been solved and that they would automatically update everything. Now, they’ve also said that they were available for negotiating with the clients in order to minimize the impact that this might have. The most curious thing about this letter is  that it was a template letter, ie, the bank sent that letter to everyone instead of  creating custom letters for each client informing them of their own status.

Guess what? On the next day the money was gone from my mother’s account. They simply withdrawn the money without saying anything. My mother didn’t even knew she was owning money and she didn’t even had time to go to the bank and ask about it before the money was withdrawn (as I said, the letter from the bank didn’t give this info – they just said that some paid more and that others paid less, remember? And she received it on one day and the money was gone by the end of that day… )

The best part was the explanation given by the bank (in my presence). In response to ”where’s the money”,they simply said that they had to withdraw it because my mother was owing that money to the finances. Now,this is really an interesting answer because 1.) when you’re owing money, they (finances) need a court order to get access to your stuff and 2.) she didn’t sign anything giving permission to the bank to go and take money from her account.

It was obvious that this was not a valid operation, but even so the bank clerk decided to keep justifying it with the same answer. And he even said that if I wanted more info I should go and ask the finances about it.Arguing with him was a waste of my precious time, so I did take my case to the consumer’s protection organism and yes, they’ve confirmed me that this is not  legal. And the best thing of all is that at night SIC (Portuguese TV station) showed a report where many were complaining about that problem. Interestingly, the money was back in the client’s accounts on the next morning (at 3:30 AM of a Saturday, and that is what the news I’ve linked to says). Now, I’m only putting this here because I’d like to comment Mr. Paulo Sousa’s remarks regarding this incident. He says something like this:

"o processo foi ao longo de meses fruto de numerosos contactos entre a nossa rede de agência e os nossos clientes, acrescentando que, ele próprio enviou, no passado dia 20 de Fevereiro, uma carta aos clientes que estavam abrangidos pela situação a informar o que iria suceder e a sugerir um contacto imediato com a rede"

In English, it says something like:

“the process was the result of several contacts on these months between our agencies and our clients, and that he had sent several letters to the clients informing them about what was happening and suggesting a quick contact with the agencies”

I’m sorry, but this is  a lie. My mother wasn’t contacted by anyone on the local agency. the only contacts that occurred were all after the unauthorized money withdraw and they only happened because we went there and asked for our money. As I’ve said, the only thing the bank said was that this withdraw wasn’t really its fault (which is a lie) and that they couldn’t do anything about it. I’m still not sure on how they can keep saying that it wasn’t their fault when it clearly was. And if the withdraw operation is valid, why did they returned the money quickly to their customers?

It would be  unbelievable if they could get away with this behaviour (which they didn’t, thanks to the DECO)…btw, this is a government bank…unbelievable…and that’s all…end of rant…

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~ by Luis Abreu on March 9, 2009.

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