ASK TONY: Santander’s mail mix-up delivered nasty sting

My wife and I have lived at our current address for more than 20 years. The house name is written on the front gate. 

Nonetheless, post addressed correctly has regularly been returned to financial services firms, causing us no end of problems. 

Most recently, one of my bank statements went back to Santander. The bank stopped sending me bank or credit card statements and made no attempt, using my telephone number or email address, to establish whether I was still alive or if I had moved. 

Post addressed correctly to a reader has regularly been returned to financial services firms

The Financial Ombudsman Service told me Santander offered to settle my complaint but the bank has done nothing to rectify matters. 

In fact, its credit card arm has put a block on my card and is imposing a penalty charge and interest on a transaction I did not know had taken place (an annual subscription to New Scientist) because I have not been receiving statements. 

D. S., Woking, Surrey. 

Tony Hazel replies: I don’t usually publish letters about cases where the Financial Ombudsman Service has become involved, but I am making an exception here because you’ve highlighted an important issue. 

You told me: ‘It really beggars belief that when banks get post returned they simply shrug their shoulders and make no effort at all to establish if their customer has really moved away or even if they are still alive.’ 

Santander says that ‘to protect customer data, we place a mail block on an account linked to any mail that gets returned’. 

But wait a minute! What’s the point of banks and other financial organisations collecting our phone numbers and emails if they make no attempt to contact us before cancelling our post? 

Recently I covered a case where a private pension had been halted for the same reason. 

Santander has now refunded interest and charges, reinstated your credit card and set you up to receive statements digitally via online banking. It has also provided details on how to pay your credit card by direct debit. 

But it, and other financial organisations, need protocols which lead to a secondary contact method being used before customers are ‘cancelled’.

People working from home due to coronavirus are entitled to claim tax relief through HMRC

People working from home due to coronavirus are entitled to claim tax relief through HMRC

Tax relief trouble 

I have been working from home since March 23 last year. My HR director said I could apply for tax relief on household costs such as heating. 

I have failed umpteen times to claim online, and wrote to the tax office in East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire on January 12 and again on February 4.

I have still not received a response. 

S. M., by email. 

Tony Hazel replies: Those told by their employer to work from home — rather than choosing to do so — because of coronavirus and, as a result, have seen their household costs increase are entitled to claim tax relief. 

You can do this through HMRC’s online portal via a Government Gateway account. You can claim tax relief of up to £6 a week without having to provide evidence. 

In real terms, this is worth £1.20 a week to a basic-rate taxpayer and £2.40 to a higher-rate taxpayer. If you want to claim more than £6 per week you need to provide evidence. 

HMRC will accept backdated claims for up to four years. Go to: 

The taxman says your problem stemmed from the ID checks. You use a different first name to the one HMRC has registered for you. There is a link at the bottom of the identity verification page to click for support. 

An HMRC spokesman says: ‘Before sharing any personal data with a customer online we have a duty to establish their identity to a high degree of confidence, but we want services to be as straightforward as possible while doing it. 

‘That’s why anyone who is unable to prove their identity online can contact us via alternate channels.’ You have now received your tax rebate of £108.02.

No reply from Sun Life 

My husband died in April. I am having trouble claiming on some Sun Life insurance policies. I am nearly 80 and not very computer literate. 

There are three policies involved but I do not have any information as to where I should apply for the proceeds. 

I have written to three addresses but have received no replies and one letter was returned unopened. 

The £9,000 from these policies was meant to cover my husband’s funeral and I had to sell premium bonds to pay for it instead. 

S. B., Filey, N. Yorks. 

Tony Hazel replies: Sun Life and I send our condolences after the death of your husband. 

It seems you wrote to old addresses. But if that’s all the information you hold then what are you supposed to do? 

The insurance industry has been through merger after merger over the past two decades. I feel far greater efforts need to be made to help those in your situation, especially older clients who may not be au fait with the internet. 

Sun Life has paid two of the policies now, plus interest. The third was transferred to Friends Life, which is now part of Aviva. 

Sun Life says it wrote to customers to give them the contact details needed to make a claim. It has now supplied you with that information and Aviva has paid out the policy. 

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has an online list of mergers (, but those who are not internet savvy could phone ABI on 020 7600 3333.

We love hearing from our loyal readers, so ask that during this challenging time you write to us by email where possible, as we will not pick up letters sent to our postal address as regularly as usual. You can write to: asktony@ or, if you prefer, Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT — please include your daytime phone number, postal address and a separate note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Tony Hazell. We regret we cannot reply to individual letters. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.