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MP set to close HSBC account following axing of Welsh language service

17 Jan 2024 3 minute read
Arfon MP Hywel Williams. Photo Plaid Cymru

Emily Price

A Plaid Cymru MP is set to close his HSBC account after over half a century, following the bank’s decision to axe its Welsh language customer service line.

On Monday (14 January ) HSBC confirmed its Welsh language line had been closed down despite weeks of pressure from politicians and customers to retain the service.

Welsh language calls will now be routed to the bank’s main contact centre and undertaken by English speaking agents only.

HSBC says the reason for the decision was due to “an extremely low level of calls” to the service.

This was disputed by the Senedd’s Culture Committee who accused the bank of treating Welsh speakers with “contempt”.

From now on, customers seeking to converse in Welsh can request a call back – but this will take three days.

Following the closure of the line MP for Arfon Hywel Williams said the bank had lost the confidence of its customers.

The Plaid Cymru MP has been a customer of HSBC for over half a century but said his 51st year may be his last.

Demand

Mr Williams said: “HSBC has long abandoned its pretence of being the world’s local bank. After closing numerous Welsh branches and disrespecting Welsh speakers for years before ultimately shutting down the Welsh language service, it is no wonder that it is losing the confidence of many customers.

“HSBC has been running their Welsh medium telephone service down for years. A customer for 51 years, I always choose to speak in Welsh but recently have nearly always been passed on to an English-speaking call handler.

“HSBC claims a decline in demand. The truth is that it has actively extinguished demand for years.

“They have installed machines in their branches whilst cutting down on local counter staff who were always Welsh speaking. As often as not there is a queue for counter service whilst the machines are ignored and idle.

“That banks can get away with scrapping services in one of the two official languages of our country shows how legislation i not sufficiently robust. We should consider amending the 1993 Welsh Language Act and the 2011 Welsh Language (Wales) Measure to cover essential services provided privately, such as banking.

“In my 51st year as a customer, it appears that this may be my last with HSBC.”

Committed

Following the closure of the line, HSBC said it was committed to customers and confirmed that it would not be announcing any new branch closures in Wales in 2024.

A HSBC UK spokesperson said: “We remain committed to supporting our Welsh language customers, but due to the extremely low level of calls into our dedicated Welsh-speaking line – fewer than 2 dozen calls a day on average – we need to make changes.

“If a customer does want to speak with a Welsh speaker, that still can be arranged. We will also continue to have Welsh speaking colleagues in half our Welsh branches and will continue to respond to customer correspondence in Welsh.”


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Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
1 month ago

Which banks or building societies have a dedicated Welsh language telephone number?

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

Da iawn Hywel. Some may think this is mere pettiness and it may have no effect but I think it is important that a representative of the people is seen to make a stand on their behalf and Hywel is doing just that. Contrast this with the silent indifference of many MPs in relation to the victims of the Post Office scandal.

Maglocunos
Maglocunos
1 month ago

Diolch Hywel, da iawn.

Every individual or organisation that has to do with the Welsh language, such as the Urdd, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Plaid Cymru, Mentrau Iaith etc should tell HSBC if they bank there that they intend to do the same, unless the decision is reversed, and the banks concerned should offer a full bilingual service to all customers in Cymru.

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

Closing it because it doesn’t get used enough, bit like S4C,

Eifion
Eifion
1 month ago

Da iawn hywel Williams. Rhun ap iorwerth dewch ymlaen.

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