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Does disability discrimination go on in financial services?

Woman using a Chip and Signature card

Disability discrimination, like scurvy and rationing, should be a thing of the distant past but unfortunately there are still examples of financial companies letting down disabled people.

It’s against the law to discriminate against disabled people under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and subsequently the Equality Act 2010.

And yet, I can think of examples where banks and other financial service providers are still letting people with disabilities down – and could even be testing the law.

Not right – but is it discrimination?

Sadly, financial companies could be breaching these regulations in a number of ways.

The most obvious example is granting Chip and Signature cards. People should be allowed one of these cards if they’re unable to remember their Pin or operate a Chip and Pin terminal. But is this always the case – are banks giving them out to everyone who needs one?

We’ve spoken to a Which? member who has a Chip and Pin card but cannot physically enter the Pin number – surely, he should be given a Chip and Signature card as an alternative. Instead he struggles to use his Chip and Pin.

Bank and building society branches and other services should also be fully compliant with the relevant legislation. This means that wheelchair access to branches and cash machines should be the same as for able-bodied individuals. The best providers will also make the branch experience as seamless as possible for these consumers.

Access for power of attorney

We get lots of feedback from members about arranging power of attorney and giving them appropriate access to accounts. It’s no good granting power of attorney if financial institutions then put unnecessary restrictions on how an attorney can access accounts. For example Which? Conversation commenter Sue Shaw told us:

‘I have Enduring Power Of Attorney, all legally done through my solicitor, for my mother-in-law. But her bank, Nationwide, will not accept this document unless my mother-in-law goes to the bank in person to be questioned and to fill out the necessary bank forms. She is unable to do this due to poor health but the bank would not accept this or send the forms to her.’

In this case Sue should make a formal complaint to Nationwide, as her mother-in-law shouldn’t have to fill out any forms or visit a branch.

So do you think that you’ve experienced disability discrimination in relation to how you manage your finances? Have you experienced any of the problems I’ve suggested – or perhaps you have different examples to share?


Worst is the Financial Ombudsman’s Call centre on corporate remits[ bias] maladministrating who are financed by those such as Banks they investigate. Not one call centre now have disability coordinators so if dyspraxic[ numbers / location /sequencing] like me you have trouble putting money in or taking out.Managers are no longer in control but seem to be pawns of call centre & their policies, procedures & remits.
I joined the Nationwide because the Manager was so helpful . Now she is the devil incarnate.They sold Car Insurance leaving customers in limbo and ripped off.I know they are all as bad as each other and are copying each other with no discretion or flexibilty.
Worst is visa who they use when it suits them but the debit & credit don’t liase consequently if you are in credit at end of month because pay off balance in full disregard. Blocking payments when moneyis in your so called flexaccount operating rigidly . If there is a problem they take over 3 mths to investigate often getting it wrong as take side of the biggest bank account.
As for verified by Visa that treats account holders as frauds.That another issue.
I never had a problem for long before these call centre when managers had authority & responsibility in Trading Standards.

All these organisations are breaking the law The Chronically Sick & Disabled Act 1970 & deregulated Government are allowing this to happen ,Shame.

British Bankers’ Association here. Be fair, Paul. Your title (“Does disability discrimination still go on in financial services?”) assumes discrimination went on in the past – in journalism schools they call this the “When did you stop beating your wife?” construction.

And there are a few other things. Banks can and do offer chip-and-signature cards for those customers who cannot use chip-and-PIN cards – they only need ask. Enduring Powers of Attorney were replaced by Lasting Powers of Attorney and may only be used if made and signed before October 2007. Banks can help you to take on the financial and property affairs of someone who lacks the capacity to look after some – or all – of their own financial affairs: see our guide online at http://www.bba.org.uk/publications/entry/banking-for-people-who-lack-capacity-to-make-decisions-england-and-wales/leaflets/. And identify verification is demanded by anti-money laundering rules, rather than bank requirements set by financial institutions.

Finally – crucially – if you are a customer with specific needs, please, please let your bank know. They will work to meet your needs.

Hello BBA, we’ve taken your point on board about the title and have decided to edit out the word ‘still’. Thanks very much.

Hello BBA, troling through the internet this morning in the hope that I may find some changes to legislation to stop companies like ‘Amigo’ trying to take advantage of my disabled child who has autism and a learning disability – who is 34 years old, I find your blog. All my childs mail is redirected to me so I have the opportunity to read letters like the one this morning from Omigo which quotes ‘Amigo started back in 2005 to provide simple, fair loans to people who were being unfairly rejected because of their credit score’ ….on this point why would it be fair to overrule the credit score of anyone, why have a credit score? The letter continues ………. ‘Our idea was to base decision on common sense, have human conversations with customers to make sure we were only lending them what they could afford, and judge them on whether their friends and family trusted them, not on what a computer said about them’ …… I find this totally manipulative? I have lasting power of attorney, which cost me over £600, and not once has anybody contact me about an application my child has made. I have enforced the LPA on companies like Amigo, including ‘Very’, ‘Capital One’ and ‘EE’ going through their so called ‘specialist support teams’, but been completely ignored … They will just not leave my child alone!!! Yes I am angry because most of my time is spent picking up the pieces after these companies, protecting my child from court action I am now considering taking all the companies to court, including banks who have ignored me. I have no faith in the system and find it more than ironic to discover more information on equality for disabled people through pay day loans than how to prevent companies like I have mentioned, who are similar to Brighthouse, from operating.

Mikhail says:
22 October 2011

Disabled people can always use cash, if they can’t remember the PIN I can’t see why they should be allowed to use credit cards, because obviously they won’t remember any transactions including fraudulent transactions (if any), so I can’t see why banks have to be responsible for that. I’m sorry but disability is a limitation of human abilities. There should be a REASONABLE limit of what disable people can expect. The Nationwide example from my point of view is very unreasonable, but chip & PIN is absolutely acceptable.

Linda Woodhead says:
14 June 2015

Sorry Mikhail, I am disabled and have been for many years, during a spell of very bad illness I set up a power of attorney for my daughter, I also had her name added to my bank accounts, and copies of power of attorney where given to each bank. Also since I cannot hold a pen it was discussed and decided that a name stamp be provided, now this is great I can pay in any shop I go too. Cash is no good as I cannot get hold of it and when I do it falls through my fingers. So you see not all disabilities are there for you to see so you have no idea what difficulties people go through. So a little knowledge, consideration and patience goes a long way.

I can’t believe someone of the mentality above is given a voice . If he is British I am ashamed. Otherwise….There are often those on the borderline of disabillity as they age. If you run a system with unmonitored staff attitudes unable to address reasonably like the above this is how we get a suspect system like this.

Mikhail says:
24 October 2011

So what do you suggest? I understand that what I said is cruel but it is also real. I’m not fantasising about equal life for everyone, I know it is impossible at this stage. What I see in the article is a suggestion to cut off a leg of a healthy horse in order to make a sick horse to feel better.

Ben says:
19 June 2016

Hi mikhail let me remind you that UK is a developed country and has no place for your inability to be open minded and inclusive. I said this because your name suggests your Eastern European.

23 October 2011

i cant beleive the audacity of mikhail and his or her comment do u come from this country have u worked every day since u left school i have worked 35 years and took massive heart attack thats what can happen when somebody is doing to much work and stressed by it u should try it MRS MCCUSKER

Mikhail says:
24 October 2011

I work all my life since graduation from a secondary school and I can tell you that in most cases only fat people have heart problems. You can blame stress, work, government but your body is your responsibility. There is only a small % of people which experience a heart attack before 60. I guess I’m going to say another cruel thing, but I would exclude fat and smoking related illnesses from free NHS cover, as self-inflicted illnesses.

Hi Mikhail, this post was intended to find out what problems exist within financial services that may be discriminating against those with disabilities. If we can fix some of those problems then hopefully it will help to make some people’s lives easier – which is surely a positive change for all.

Your comments are, unsurprisingly, hurtful to other commenters. Please could you have a quick read through our commenting guidelines – and particularly take note of this part:

“We may remove posts that others may find offensive, harassing, threatening or abusive or we consider to be defamatory. Language that’s vulgar, obscene, sexually orientated, racist, sexist, homophobic or hateful is not welcome.”

Many thanks

Well said, Ms. Jolliffe. These posts should be removed. Not only are they contrary to your commenting guidelines,. they are also illegal, under disability legislation.

Mikhail says:
24 October 2011

Hannah Jolliffe, I’m sorry if you find my comment hurtful, I only wanted to say that instead of fighting with the “end result”, i.e., disability we must do more to prevent it. Obesity and obesity related illnesses are one of the most popular causes of different forms of disability (including diabetes) (Equality Act 2010)

Has the person above been educated here as he seems not able to think clearly & is totally unreasonable . I have had heart attack & I can tell you most people I see in the clinics are of average size . However if you can’t use energy to exercise this could be reason one is weighty . Any intelligent person knows that reasons are many especially genetic Lets hope he has nothing to do with NHS .No wonder it is in a mess with this unreasonable attitude prevalent .

Mikhail says:
24 October 2011

Oh I can see and think very clearly, thanks to the national statistics. Here is a quotation for you:

“By 2008, a quarter of the UK population was reported to be obese (with a body mass index BMI of more than 30). By 2050, if these trends continue, 60 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women will be obese”

Dear Hannah Jolliffe, obesity is a form of disability and from my point of view instead of dealing with the ‘end result’ we must prevent it by all means! I think I don’t need to tell you what kind of illnesses obesity can cause and how much taxpayers (including me) have to spend on some people’s irresponsible behaviour.

For the record exercises are only 30% of one-person wellbeing, and 60% is a diet, ask any dietarian! But of course it is easer to find an excuse, it is amazing how lazy people can justify their laziness, e.g., stress, DNA, genes, etc. Even when a human body is resting it still spend energy and it is bloody easy nowadays to count calories and do not exceed the recommended limit.

This Mikhail has a dangerous mentality as he uses out of date research statistics to bend suspect statistics to his fascist point of view. What I learnt on MA 2003 was you can make statistics say what you want case studies were the way forward . He is incapable of this as seems to hate human beings unless like him or have the ability to understand other points of view making himself look ????!!!!.Unfortunately the NHS is being directed by ? like-this.Oh dear, what a miserable being.

Hi Julie, I understand that you’re offended by these comments, but please try not to make personal attacks on others – I have already warned Mikhail, so any more insulting comments by him will be removed.

Let’s get back to the topic in hand now as this Conversation is veering off-topic. What examples of discrimination have you experienced/encountered?…

It’s very easy to get into a virtual fight with someone. So the suggestion of getting back on topic is perfect.

An interesting point made by Mr. Davies in his article is that people who are unable to use Chip and Pin should be given a Chip and Signature card.

What about people who have a physical disability and who therefore cannot either enter a PIN or sign, even just to put a simple mark as a signature (which would be easy to copy anyhow, so not good security)?

These people have an equal right to conduct financial transactions as independently and securely as anyone else.

I would welcome ideas from participants to this thread.

To qualify my comment, I will say that I am not disabled.

Mikhail says:
24 October 2011

The idea was around for a quite long time, i.e., contactless payment, but it didn’t go far in the UK because of the security worries.

susan says:
28 November 2011

I have had severe problems with the Halifax.i was offered an interest only mortgage for the rest of the term of the mortgage 11 years ,after 2 years they turned round and said that i couldnt have it anymore and that i had never had the interest free for more than 3 years anyway, and certainly not for the 11 year period that i claimed..cut a long story short,I did have it for the 11 years and it was there faultas they had sent out the wrong paperwork in the firast place ,but it took me over 3 months to find that out.A lot of hassle and misery and still they will not admit it only to say,unclear imformation.As a stroke victim they have always refused to let anyone deal with the mortgage account but me .,my sons couldnt,CAB were refused,and also the advocate put in charge of my financial affairs,appointed by social services,and he was fron Trading Standards and they wouldnt deal with any of them,so i had to after suffering 2 strokes and numerous mini strokes.How rotton are they,or is it convienient,they can just ride rough shot over the people that cannot stick up for themselves.,After this with the interest free morgage ,it has been reinstated,but how many other poor people have been in the same position and not realised.they offered me £100 for telephone calls,which i will be lucky if it even covers it,,,,and no they will still only deal with me,i think that had i had a proper representative that i would maybe not have had the run around that i have had

David says:
31 December 2011

I have a chip and signature card off RBS and had no problems getting it off them, but when it comes to my nationwide account that was opened when i was a child i had problems with them giving me a chip and signature card, they made out they is no chip and signture cards just chip and pin cards. I had to get a manger to come and see me and he made out the same, but after 30 mins of me saying they is and telling him how my RBS visa works he phone someone and they sent me one out.

I have had problems using my chip and signature card in some shops “Tesco, Currys, Orange Store” saying the only allow pin cards so will have to find other means of paying, but at the them store just asked to speck to some one and told them wel youl breaking the law i.e the above Acts. and they say sorry after i tell them why my card is chip and signature. A lot of the time it comes down to staff training they get told pins must be entered. more training is needed and more information needs to be out there about chip and singature cards.

June says:
1 January 2012

I read the comments above with great interest. Whilst the article and heading focuses on banking services and the use of chip and pin it is also the retail market that is at fault. I have a friend who is unable to use chip and pin machines, thier bank has provided them with a ‘chip and signiture’ card, this automatically tells the assistant when the card is inserted into the C&P machine that a signiture is required and prints a slip for the customer to sign. My friend always tells the assistant that they cannot use the pin machine and in a majority of cases does not have a problem.

However on a recent trip to a well known high street shop he purchased an expensive pair of shoes (just short of £200), my friend gave the assistant the card and informed them that they will have to sign the till slip. The slip was printed but the assistant refused to let them sign it, they asked for a passport, my friend stated they do not carry a passport to go shopping, they asked for a photo id driving licence to which my friend stated that they had an old style licence. The assistant then demanded them to use a different card, my friend explained they will all ask for a signiture. By now there were five assistants crowding around my friend baracking them asking what disability they had that meant they could not enter a pin number. My friend could bearly stand with the stress of the situation and feeling humiliated was finally allowed to leave the store with the purchase but rather then continue the day shopping had to go home where it took them several days to recover.

So I guess the story is the banks do sometimes get it right but sadly the retailer leaves a lot to be desired. So much hype was made to sales staff that people have to enter a pin the disabled person has been forgotten.
NB my friend complained and the response was that they acted legally and that the assistants were wrong to let them leave with the purchase.

Can I just point out to the earlier person who insinuated that disabilities are self inflicted, can I remind them that many of our brave soliders are now adjusting to life with loss of limbs, vision and various other health issues that prevents them from being able to use pin machines. Prehaps they should look outside of the narrow vision they have of disability.

Acted legally? Far from it. I suggest that your friend takes legal advice and takes the matter further. There was a clear breach of disability legislation. This sort of thing makes me very angry. There is still a lot of ignorance towards disabled people, viz. the insinuation of self-inflicted disability.

As a person that also requires Chip and Signature cards following a brain injury, its actually really refreshing to stubble across a group of people who are actually familiar with them.

My experiences however are very much like that of the friend mentioned above and I am often refused use of cards in shops that I really would have expected better of.

I carry letters of apology from major petrol retailers who have at one point or another held me captive on their forecourts after filling my car with fuel and then be refused use of my chip and signature cards. I can now whip these out whenever I need to to prove to the forecourt staff they are in the wrong.

Despite there being 3 million chip and signature cards in circulation, I tend not to get so bothered when my cards are refused in smaller shops, as staff training is often less comprehensive, but what I really find so unacceptable is when it happens in a major store …M&S, Halfords, Currys and my current pet hate, Abercrombie & Fitch come to mind.

Invariably I’m told I need to show some additional photo ID, such as passport or driving license, to which I always make the point that I have the card in the first place because I have a brain injury which has caused significant MEMORY impairment. I then ask the retailer if it seems reasonable, bearing in mind that I have significant MEMORY impairment, that I should be required to REMEMBER to bring additional identification if I want to shop in their store.

I unfortunately have ongoing lose of cognitive function and it was my intention to put in place strategies to ensure that I could function as long as possible before the deterioration becomes so severe that I cannot manage, Its very clear to me now that whilst the strategy might be in place, the constant malfunctions caused by shops not knowing their responsibilities, render the benefits to be marginal. When it does go wrong now, I can quote chapter and verse what the retailer is doing wrong and what they should do to operate within the law. I will not have that ability much longer, and I am aware that many others in my position are not as fortunate, and may well not have the ability to mount strong arguments.

unfortunately the equality commission call center is also stating that the store was within thier legal rights to ask for ID and do not seem interested in taking the case forward.

Susan Brady says:
27 October 2015

Very few people realise the problems that deaf disabled people have, particularly when banks put blocks on their debit or credit cards. I live part of the year in France and have my cards blocked all the time if I use them there despite having PREVIOUSLY INFORMED my bank and put a note on my online banking facility.
I am not able to use the telephone to call and have the block removed or to visit a branch of my bank – they don’t have them in rural France. It is not possible for me to get my card unblocked by an online facility which would be simple for me. I must use the telephone and call a number which it is not possible to call from a mobile phone and I don’t have a landline in France. I tried getting a relative to call and sort out the situation but the Bank would not accept this. How on earth can the bank possibly know who is ringing up – anyone could say they were me. This situation is utterly stupid and discriminates against deaf people. It is high time that people recognise deafness as the disability it really is. We look normal but are excluded from normal life by our inability to communicate unless we are actually physically with a person.