|If you are sent cheques you bear all responsibility|
While scrying the internet on press day for stories that might whet the advisers' appetite, I came across consumer champion Tony Hetherington's latest investigation into Missing Cheques. More accurately, how one man cashed in his savings with Standard Life, and was sent a cheque from Capita to the tune of £928.
The cheque was paid into an account at Lloyds - but not by the intended recipient. He has never received his money after cashing in his savings. The upshot? According to Capita, it's all at the investor's own risk. They claimed to have sent the cheque to the correct address, so even if his mail was intercepted and the cheque was stolen, he will never see his money unless he tries to take the person who cashed his cheque to court.
It is all "at your own risk" if a cheque is sent to you.
Now I've heard the 'caveat emptor' phrase a million times and I have some sympathy for it. You must be able to bear some responsibility for what you buy. If you don't check the terms and conditions, if you don't get someone else to do this for you, if you don't understand what you are buying - then don't buy it! It is basic common sense.
You don't go into a clothes shop and tell the assistant that you like the bag in the window, then get given a mystery box all wrapped up and told to "sign here". You check the box to see what is in it before you pay for it. Or any sensible person would.
This reminds me of a story back from when my late Great Aunt Ivy was a young lady travelling to work in London back in the early 1920s. She bought herself a nightgown - a silk one - from a posh shop in the West End. The lady at the counter took the slip, turned around, wrapped it into a box and delivered it to Ivy without saying a word. When Ivy got home to try on her purchase, it was an old vest. No returns.
Always check in the box is a good simile for 'caveat emptor'.
But when it comes to other parties entrusted with the delivery of your money, what has happened to this man in the Mail's column is pretty shoddy behaviour. Did Lloyds not double-check the names and initials on the cheque? Why has Capita absolved all responsibility? Why has nobody examined the information to see whether Capita did, indeed, put the right address on the envelope?
To say that once you have sent a cheque to someone, it is their responsibility is ludicrous. There should be some duty of care involved - such as requring a signature on delivery of the cheque. This may not be a lot of money in the world of investment managers and consultants, whose salaries are enviable, but to a man whose entire savings with that provider didn't even amount to £1000, this makes a lot of difference.
Why couldn't the money be delivered by BACS?
Why couldn't it be paid directly into his account?
Why wasn't the cheque, if it had to be posted, tracked, marked for signature on receipt?
This smacks of being careless with other people's money and for the victim, this isn't a laughing matter. Although of course, someone was laughing - the person who took this fellow's cheque all the way to the bank.