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HSBC have made the last week of my life hell...

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HSBC Bank have made the last week of mine and my partner's life absolute hell.


The whole story is explained in more detail on my blog, but I am unable to post a link yet as I have less than 10 posts.




..but I will give a brief overview of sorts.


HSBC closed my girlfriends account with no apparent warning around 10 days ago. We weren't to know because we haven't received any letters and I do all the food shopping etc from my account so we've had no need to use her account etc.


We only found out the account was closed when her card was swallowed by a cashpoint recently. We phoned HSBC to investigate and they tell us they've closed the account. No one on the phone initially could tell us why for some reason?


As it transpired, HSBC said they had been receiving lots of returned mail from us. I had no knowledge of this, our postman is a good guy, I work from home. If there was any mail being sent us, then I'm pretty certain we would have received it. On further inspection, turns out they've been sending all letters to an address my girlfriend has not lived at for 6 years!!!


No effort was made to contact us via telephone or our real address (which we changed ages and ages ago).


They have now removed the overdraft limit, closed the account and threatened her with a debt collection agency (her account balance was around -£31 - but she did have a £500 overdraft limit).


I have had to take the week off work to deal with this, I am struggling against utter utter incompetence left, right and centre.


I have so far raised at least 3 formal complaints regarding our treatment.

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It all starts on Monday 27th February 2012.


It all starts on Monday 27th February 2012. We awoke in a hotel in West London just off the Chiswick roundabout. We'd spent the previous day at Wembley Stadium watching Cardiff City lose on penalties to Liverpool in the Carling Cup Final. The proudest and the most upset I have ever been at a football match, about ten times worse than the pain I felt when Paul Bodin put his penalty against the bar against Romania in 1993.


We'd spent the rest of the night in a small pub just off Wembley Way, befriending a Tottenham fan in his fifties who declared that he loved me. Made our way back to the hotel at about 11.


We woke up, hungover, tired, dehydrated and disappointed that we had to make the depressing journey along the M4, winding through the nothing and nowhere fields of Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire. As the Westway disappears from view, the Sega building, the GSK building all fade from sight and are quickly replaced by nothing but cow **** and English countryside.


In a complete change of tact we called into the McDonalds drive-thru in Kew Bridge, West London to pick up an Egg McMuffin for the journey. My girlfriend, yesterday asked me to take care of her debit card as she didn't want to take a wallet or purse to the match. I ordered my Egg McMuffin meal, I reached into my wallet to grab my HSBC debit card to pay. I entered my PIN number.. "PIN INCORRECT". I type it in again, "PIN INCORRECT". At this point I'm thinking to myself "What the **** is wrong with me? I've had the same PIN number since I was about 15". It was the exact same one Halifax Bank gave to me 15 years ago, but that's neither here or there. Once more I try my PIN number, and again I'm met with "PIN INCORRECT - PIN LOCKED".


At this point I place the debit card back in my wallet and realise what I've done... I've accidentally tried using my girlfriend's card to pay for our food. We have the same bank, the cards look exactly the same. Just an oversight on my part, probably aided no end by the fact I'm hungover and I have 24 hours of London's finest air in my lungs. I quickly pull my own debit card out of wallet and pay for the food with no qualms.


I return to the car with my tail between my legs and confess to my girlfriend that I accidentally used her card and probably locked the PIN. I tell her that all she has to do is pop to any HSBC cashpoint and simply select "Unlock PIN" or take some money out for the PIN to unlock. Simple.


The rest of the journey is boring, we listen to TalkSport for 2 hours, hearing how Cardiff City deserved to win but didn't. The usual landmarks like the Microsoft Building, Madejski Stadium, the secret RAF junction in Swindon and the RAC building in Bristol are all pointed at. We went out in Cardiff that night.


Fast forward a few weeks. I cannot remember the exact date, but it was somewhere between the 22nd and 26th of March. My girlfriend attempts to use her debit card to withdraw £30 (In the previous month, PIN has been unlocked, she's taken cash out many times, everything looks good again). To everyone's horror, the Tesco cashpoint decides to swallow the card. Complete shock, immediately we think "This has something to do with that McDonalds PIN lock thing". It's surely no coincidence that it is roughly one month since that whole thing happened?


My girlfriend at this point, and without going into too much financial detail here, has at least £450 if not a little more in her account - so we know it's nothing to do with the overdraft or any account behaviour reason. We're confused, a bit gutted, but overall at this point we believe it's probably my fault for accidentally using the wrong card that day. No one is harmed that much, I still have my debit card, and I've only just been paid my wages so I take out cash for both of us and we carry on with the day.


A few days later, my girlfriend phones HSBC's lost and stolen card department. I suggest this, just in case. You never know? The machines are supposed to retain any cards it swallows but I've known of stories where the card has come straight back out for the next customer, and we certainly didn't want some nomark going around getting ****ed off her money.


HSBC Lost & Stolen department cancel the card, confirm my girlfriend's address is where she lives. They give her some kind of fob off that they cannot send a new card out, and that she needs to either speak to the Call Centre or pop into a local branch with some form of identification. Okay, so this a bit annoying - but we're thinking surely this is for security reasons. I would never criticise a bank for requesting extra security information, especially in today's climate of increased fraud activity etc. So we think nothing of it.


A few days later, (Yesterday - 2nd April 2012) my girlfriend phones HSBC call centre one more time to get her new debit card sent to the house, or at least to find out how to go about getting it back. I'm upstairs working, so I'm not party to any part of this conversation. All I know is that when I come downstairs to see what happened, my girlfriend is sat there on the settee visibly upset scrawling something down on a piece of A4 notepad.


I ask her what's wrong. She tells me "HSBC have closed my account, they say they've been writing to me and haven't heard back. They've closed my account, they've told me I owe them money and that they're sending debt collectors around to the house". I take it all in and try and make some sense of it all. She is in no way irresponsible with her money, she doesn't spend in any way extravagantly and is a full time student so doesn't even have a lot of money there in the first place? I mean, all the direct debits and standing orders are on my account. Rent, gas, electric, council tax, Cardiff City season tickets, Sky, BT, Orange, everything is all on my account. She takes £30 out a week for random bits and spends about the same on eBay every week on art materials and other random things. So none of this makes any sense?


I differ from my girlfriend in several ways, one of those is that I do not in any way take bad service or someone fobbing me off. I have nothing better to do, so I'm happy to spend every waking minute of every single day on the phone to a call centre agent in the middle of nowhere just to get what's rightfully ours back.


I pick up the phone and unleash my fury on the first agent I speak. I spend the best part of an hour on the phone getting no sense from the advisor. They have no idea why the account was closed, they confirm that the account is not and never has been in arrears of any kind. They confirm that no debt collection agency has been contacted, and that I should not worry. They tell me to visit my local branch, where they will happily re-open the account and put things back as they were.


We visit the Queen Street, Cardiff branch of HSBC who to be frank are of little use. This particular branch are never any use. I avoid it as much as possible. In fifteen years of banking with HSBC, I have had nothing but terrible experiences with that branch. But none the less, this was where we found ourselves, so we had little option but to use that branch. Advisor refuses to speak to us, she claims "We do not speak to non-customers about accounts". Before I end up trashing the whole branch and landing myself on a criminal damage charge we leave and head back home to continue trying to make some sense of the call centre staff.


We speak to HSBC's UK based "Customer Care" team, from the accents I'm assuming based in Scotland - but not confirmed. The first agent I speak to is amazed I am coming through to him. He denies any wrongdoing by the bank. He claims that he can see in front of him, multiple letters sent to my girlfriend at our registered home address asking her to make contact with the bank. I'm dumbfounded, I work from home most of the time and I get on well with our postman. If something had come from HSBC for my girlfriend, she would have known about it surely? After all, she's been getting statements on a regular basis to this address for years. She's managed her account in a responsible manner, she reads her statements, she checks Internet Banking on a regular basis, she is able to take out cash when she likes. So in our view, there is nothing wrong with the account in any way shape or form.


"Yes, we have definitely sent out letters to your girlfriend at her home address. We've also referred her account to a debt collection agency called Metropolitan" At this point I am absolutely seething, nothing makes any sense here. Her account is not in arrears in any way. Then something that's been itching in my mind for a few minutes comes out..


"Can you tell me where you sent those letters?" I ask.

"Yeah, certainly. Just give me a moment" He replies.

He places me on hold without warning and I'm again welcomed to the repetitive piano riff I've been hearing for the last 2 hours.


"Wait there, wait there" I say, "My girlfriend hasn't lived there since about 2007ish. She lived there when I met her. We've lived at 3 different houses that I remember since then!"

He consults his computer, "No sir, we only have this one address for her"

So I ask "Okay then, can you tell me the address where you send her statements? Can you tell me where you sent her new Internet Banking key calculator thing a few months back?"

He takes a minute to find the letters on his system, but he finally comes back "Oh, um....., yeah, um... It.. um... yeah.... umm... errrr.... It... errr. um.... looks like... um... we have been....ummmmm sending her statements to her home address"

"What!?!" I shout. not ashamed to say that from this point my language begins to get quite vulgar.

"What the **** are you doing that for?"

The Customer Care agent has no idea what is going on. He tells me that it looks like the bank have been sending half of my girlfriend's mail to an address she hasn't lived at for five/six years at least.

His initial belief is that the bank must have sent a letter out, just confirming that her overdraft has been applied for another 12 months, and the person living at her old address has simply picked up the letter and wrote "Person not known at this address" and sent it back to them. Alarm bells must have rung on their side, and they've closed the account.


He tries putting the blame on us. He says "You should have changed your address with us"

I then prove him wrong by saying "Well of course, she changed her address with you. How the **** do you think she's been getting statements sent here since we moved in circa March 2010? How do you think she got her new debit card sent to the house in November 2011? How do you think she got her new Internet Banking key sent her? And finally how do you think our address got onto the system?"


He refuses to accept this story. I refer him to pretty much the exact day in April 2010 when myself and my girlfriend walked into Pontypridd branch of HSBC and filled in change of address forms. I even refer him to the date (Friday 18th December 2010) when my girlfriend walked into the same Queen Street, Cardiff branch to change her standard bank account into a student account to match her new found student status. All of her identification and student qualification criteria documentation all had her address as being the new address. I watched her with my very own eyes in that cubicle fill out the application form with our new address written on it.


He tells me he has exhausted every thing he can do. He promises to raise a complaint with the bank and tells me that I will receive a notification letter in "five working days" and that we can expect the complaint to be resolved within "eight weeks" and that until the complaint is resolved, "the account will remain closed".


I phone up the bank again on at least 30 or 40 occasions that day. **** it, I've finished work for the day, I have free calls from my landline. I aim to extract every single bit of data I can from the bank.


Over the course of the next 20 or so calls I get thrown from pillar to post. The call centre tell me that only the branch can deal with the issue, when we went to the branch earlier that day they tell me that only the customer care department can help, the customer care department tell me that all they can do is raise a complaint, Collections department tell me they cannot help because they've already sent her file to a debt collection agency (ridiculous considering no actual arrears exist on the account).


I extract the following details from various agents, and at this stage - these are the facts I have.


HSBC have been sending at least 50% of their letters to an address my girlfriend has not lived at for 5/6 years now.

HSBC, despite sending monthly statements, new debit cards, ****loads of promotional mail and Internet Banking keys to our new address (we've lived here for just over 2 years), still believe on record that my girlfriend's home address is the one she lived at 5/6 years ago. This is despite the fact that we have gone into branch on two separate occasions with evidence proving to the contrary. We log onto Internet Banking, and that shows that my girlfriend's address is correct. Yet on the phone at the Call Centre, HSBC tell me again and again that they believe her address is one 60 miles down the road!

Half of the agents tell me her account has been passed to Metropolitan debt collection agency. Half of them tell me not to worry and that it has not been sent anywhere.

Some of the agents tell me that HSBC have been sending letters every week for the past 6 months, some of the agents tell me that they haven't sent a letter to her since 21st September 2011.

Most of the agents confirm that HSBC have been sending letters to her old address (bare in mind, we've lived in 3 houses since then.. changed address every single time with the bank) and that the current occupant is simply scribbling "Not living here anymore" and sending them back to the bank.

Now I know that the issue is not a financial one, we're relieved to a certain extent. It just looks like a massive cock up on HSBC's part. I'm thinking "Okay, obviously they've sent her letters to a random address. They've sent them back. So as a sort of security measure they've blocked her account just in case"


So I say to one of the advisors, "Ah, okay. Well you know we live here. You've got photocopies of the student identification my girlfriend brought in when she converted her account to a student account. Can you just re-open the account and send her a new card and chequebook"


The Call Centre agent replies "It's not as easy as that sir. Only the branch can re-open her account and we cannot guarantee she can have her overdraft limit back".


Again, I'm fuming. "Wait there, so you make a massive mistake. You breach the Data Protection Act by sending out very sensitive financial information to an address that you know for a fact my girlfriend has not lived at for five or six years now. The problem has completely been started by you and no-one else. Now you close the account without making any attempt to contact her by telephone despite the fact that you have both her mobile and landline numbers on record, and you make idle threats to send a debt collection agency around for a debt that doesn't exist?"


The hours quickly fade away, and before I know it I have spent a total of 13 hours on the phone to various guises of HSBC. From 10am to 11pm. I speak to advisors with all manner of skills. Over the 13 hours I speak to a total of six different "managers" and at one point I even manage to speak with a "Manager's Manager".


We wake up the next morning, and walk to the Pontypridd branch of HSBC. We are greeted by Dilwyn Pritchard, a man in a suit at the branch. About 50 years old, with no disrespect meant in any way - he looks exactly like a fat version of Steve Jobs (RIP). He seems a little shocked by the treatment we've received so far and promises to get things sorted for us.


At first he seems exceptionally sorry for the treatment we've received and empathises with the way the call centre handled our complaints. He confirms that the account has been closed, he admits that he does not know the exact reason why, he tells us that he does not have the rights to look that closely at the account and that we would need to phone Customer Care back up.


Again, I am fuming. We spent 13 hours on the phone yesterday being told we needed to visit a branch - and now after visiting two different branches we are told that we need to go back home and phone Customer Care again, who will "sort things out in eight weeks". It's no disrespect to Mr. Pritchard, on a different day I'd actually say he was a rather nice man. But I honestly thought I was going to end up smashing up the branch in some form. The frustration you feel when your own bank cannot be trusted to handle your money without doing something stupid like sending letters to the wrong place is massive.


I ask "What would have happened if my girlfriend had run out of petrol and was 200 miles away from home needing to fill up?" He can do nothing but shrug his shoulders.



I take a seat in the reception area of the branch and assure him that I'm not leaving and I am in no way finished with the branch yet.


I phone customer care from my mobile in reception area. I tell them exactly what has happened, that the branch have again - been unable to help me any further.


While I'm on the phone with Customer Care, one of Mr. Pritchard's assistants walks up to my girlfriend and calls her a "liar". She says that when my girlfriend went into the Queen Street, Cardiff branch in December 2010 to apply for a Student Account she gave her address as being the old address from 5/6 years ago.


My girlfriend leaves the branch and I walk over to the computer the assistant is sat at.


"See, look by there it says that her address at the time was the old address" she says.

"But I was in the branch with her when she applied for the account, I saw her write the application form. I saw it with my very own eyes".


As is our understanding, on that day in December 2010 my girlfriend and I walked into Queen Street, Cardiff branch to apply for a Student Account - or at least for her existing Current account to be converted to a Student Account. We made the application, we were told that the application was successful and we were given a Student Account Welcome Pack of sorts (nothing more than a flap pack, a little brochure, a guide to student survival, a little brochure on managing your finances etc) but we were told that they could not increase her overdraft limit any further - this didn't matter because my girlfriend never went in with the purpose of getting a bigger overdraft. She only went in to change her account to a Student Account, as she was now a full time student again.


Imagine my horror when the bank assistant starts scrolling through her account history and we see "STUDENT ACCOUNT APPLICATION - DECLINED - ELECTORAL ROLL FAILURE".


The woman at the Queen St, Cardiff branch had applied for a student account for my girlfriend using an address she had not been living at for 5/6 years. It was bound to be declined, she was no longer on the electoral roll and had no trace of her living there. Potentially destroying my girlfriend's credit history by placing incorrect "application fail" notices. What's worse is that the banker did not tell us the application had failed. In fact she told us my girlfriend now had a student account, she handed us that Student Account Welcome Pack and told her that her overdraft would now be completely interest free as per the Student Account arrangements.


Now, the problem here is obvious. My girlfriend thinks she has a Student Account, HSBC in their eyes think she has a Generic Current/Bank Account. There are big differences between the two. Student Accounts typically get a Student Loan sum of about £1300 placed into the account every 3 or 4 months for 3 or 4 years and nothing else. Whereas Current accounts typically get a regular wage coming in, whether weekly, fortnightly or monthly. So obviously, HSBC for some reason not knowing that my girlfriend was a student are going to become concerned that the girl who used to bring in £2000ish a month when she was working is now no longer bringing in any cash, except for a student loan payment every couple of months. No longer is she putting large amounts into savings accounts etc, she's now spending her loan on art equipment, books and stuff on eBay. Which, she is within her rights to do so.


The thing is, agents at the call centre, the people in the branch are all asking "Why weren't you checking your account? Surely you should have noticed something?" Well how would we know of anything going wrong? My girlfriend has regular monthly statements sent to the correct address, she has had her debit cards and Internet Banking key sent to the right address. She checks her balance weekly and logs onto Internet Banking every week and checks her account all the time. Internet Banking lists her address as being the correct one. So how on Earth is she to know something is wrong? You're sending all the letters to the wrong ****ing address for God's sake?


At the Pontypridd branch, myself, Mr. Pritchard and his assistant sat around the computer as we looked at every single letter the bank had sent her - and it became clear to see. A letter promoting their new range of credit cards was sent to our current address, a warning that her debit card had been locked was sent to the address she used to live at and was returned by the current occupant. A letter asking my girlfriend if she like to take out a personal loan with the bank was sent to our current address, a letter informing her that a direct debit had been returned unpaid was sent to her old address of 5/6 years ago. The pattern continued exactly like this: Promotional meaningless mail was sent to her current address, meaningful important mail was sent to the address she lived at 5/6 years ago.


Customer Care, after 26 hours of requesting - reopened the account. Something that not even the Bank Manager at HSBC Queen Street, Cardiff or HSBC Pontypridd were able or authorised to do. Seems strange to me. You begin to wonder, who is the actual manager? The old stereotypical "pillar of the community" bank manager who is powerless to do anything, or the mid 20's call centre worker in Scotland who seemingly could re-open the account with no problem?


I asked Mr. Pritchard and his assistant whether they would now rightfully re-instate my girlfriends overdraft limit of £500, she was nowhere near that - but it's always nice to have an overdraft to use, especially as a student. I stressed the importance that this account needed to stay open, as my girlfriend was due to receive a payment of anywhere between £1300 to £1500 as a student loan payment for the Summer. Without this, she would be for want of a better word - completely ****ed.


The branch staff said they were unable to put the overdraft back, and that any overdraft would need to be re-applied for, and given that my girlfriend's account behaviour now looked horrific - it was very unlikely that any overdraft limit would be given.


I was absolutely horrified at this. We have suffered through complete incompetence on HSBC's part. I have had to take 2 full days off work, losing the best part of £400-500 in wages. I've spent 13-15 hours on the telephone at ridiculous rates in order to sort this problem out.


As I type this, Customer Care at HSBC have re-opened the account after 26 hours, the Customer Care agent I spoke with was amazed that the account was not just simply reopened by his previous 3 colleagues I had spoken with in Customer Care. The Overdraft limit is still not back in place, and we are still unsure of the damage HSBC have made in regards to my girlfriend's credit history/report.


The sheer incompetence and lack of professionalism shown by the bank is upsetting and shocking, as I myself have been a customer of HSBC Bank for about 15 years and have never really had any problem with them. So this has been really disappointing to receive such horrendous, illegal and possibly non-compliant treatment after repeated well documented errors from the bank.


Our complaint is currently sitting with HSBC, and legally we have to give them a given period of time to try and resolve this complaint - but rest assured we will be raising this complaint with the Financial Ombudsman the moment that time period is up.


I sadly urge everyone considering opening a student account, or even to that matter any type of account with HSBC to strongly reconsider. Our treatment, although over a very short period time has been absolutely gut-wrenching and has caused a massive inconvenience to our normally quite peaceful lives.


I myself am in the process of getting an old Halifax bank account that I used to hold when I was around 17/18 and looking to gradually move my banking services away from HSBC as I have completely lost all faith in their services as a banking customer. Which is a massive shame as I have been a customer as I mentioned for around 15 years with no complaints, I've been quoted and provisionally accepted for a relatively large mortgage with them and I am saddened to have to take all that to another bank.


Even more incompetence from "The World's Local Bank"


So after 4 days of constant phone calls and my time spent on the phone now up to something like 27 hours we finally received a new debit card and savings account card from HSBC...


..my girlfriend phones Internet Banking to check her account balance - £0.00.


She asks the agent to confirm her overdraft limit... £0.


We speak to HSBC's "Customer Care" department who confirm that there is no overdraft limit on the account because the account has been with Collections Department in the last 12 months.


I ask for the reason why the account was placed with the Collections Department? The advisor tells me that the account was placed with Collections Department 2 weeks ago when the account was incorrectly closed (due to bank error)...


So, my girlfriend cannot have an overdraft limit restored... PURELY DUE TO BANK ERROR IN THE FIRST PLACE??


The bank have finally admitted fault and responsibility for incorrect account closure. They have also admitted that the account should not have been placed with the Collections department, they admit that sending it to Collections Department was their mistake!!! Yet they will not restore the overdraft limit because the account was with the Collections Department??? You try making sense of that!!


We were promised by Mark of the Customer Care team that the overdraft limit would be put back in place by the end of Tuesday 2rd April 2012, yet here we are still with no overdraft....


UPDATE: HSBC have phoned us while typing this out. Kim from the Customer Care has told me that her manager David has accepted that declining an overdraft limit because the account has been with Collections Dept. when the reason the account has been with Collections Dept. is due to a bank error is probably a mistake. He has now sent a "message" to the "Underwriting Dept." who again I have been promised will put the overdraft limit back in place... However due to tomorrow being Good Friday and Monday being Easter Monday we should not expect any response from the bank until Tuesday.


This is utterly ridiculous. In trying to resolve this issue we have spent 27.5 hours on the telephone, visited two branches, travelled over 60 miles in the car, produced 6 pieces of documentary evidence and had to push the bank on every single occasion to do every single little thing - this is despite being called "liars" and "deceptive" and even "cheeky" by members of staff at the bank.


Can I please further advise anyone considering banking with HSBC to heed this warning and please take your business elsewhere.

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Dont ring them up mate.


Best place to start is visit your local branch, ask to speak to the branch manager who should gladly help. Dont speak to anyone else. He will sit there and go through your entire records for you and do the job properly.


From my experience when I had a DCA issue from hsbc the little bellboys and girls at hsbc were unhelpful. When I spoke to the manager it was funny how he found some information on my account what his employees at the branch couldnt.


Also mate good job on the documentary evidence. you will need this when trying to seek compensation from them. Keep this evidence, and if you get more also keep that. I got 15 pieces of evidence, and laid it infront of the "service quality team" and the big boss himself rang me on tuesday asking how much do I want to be compensated and then they can work from the figure I provide. If you got to provide your evidence always provide photocopies.


Also that £31 overdraft would have appeared as "Default - Owed £31" in ugly red writing on the credit report - disabling you from obtaining credit!


Ask for compensation mate, I know how stressful it can be others dont. When I tried for a mortgage last year I couldnt get it because hsbc put a default on my account which shouldnt have been there. They can do this and screw someone elses life up then they should pay for it.




Tip: Always try and speak to someone high in the hierarchy not some bellboy.

I went all the way to court to seek compensation for "damage to creditworthiness" against HSBC. I lost unfortunately.

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  • 1 month later...

any luck / update with yours mate? im being messed around i think!

I went all the way to court to seek compensation for "damage to creditworthiness" against HSBC. I lost unfortunately.

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At the moment we are still too-ing and fro-ing with the bank in terms of complaint resolution.


The account has been re-opened and overdraft finally put back in place, but we have to wait a month or two to make sure that any potentially damaging info has not been placed on my girlfriend's credit history. We did check a couple of weeks back, but the bank stated it may be too early to guarantee as of yet.

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Hmm good idea. Becuase my default was put on in Dec 2010 but I thought everything was finished in Oct 2010!

I went all the way to court to seek compensation for "damage to creditworthiness" against HSBC. I lost unfortunately.

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