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Is Barclays bank targeting shooting?

The debanking of shooting businesses continues despite a probe by the Financial Conduct Authority. BASC’s Conor O’Gorman investigates

Over the years, BASC has supported many shoots and businesses with complaints against unfair banking practices. We have recently been informed of over two dozen debanking incidents involving at least 15 financial service companies. We are also assisting with live cases. 

Discovering or being told your bank account is being shut down through no fault of your own, and without explanation or support, is a stressful and traumatic experience. It is understandable that most people just want to move on from such events without making a fuss or speaking out. However, a pattern is emerging for Barclays bank, and two shooting businesses wanted to share their stories with ST readers to raise awareness and encourage others to come forward. 

Northall Clay Pigeon Club in East Sussex has been operating for over 20 years under the ownership of Dan Kerwood and Mark Heritage. The shooting ground had banked with Barclays for many years without any issues, until one day in September they suddenly lost access to their online banking services. After many hours trying to get to the bottom of this, it transpired that Barclays had closed their business account, with bank staff asserting that a letter had been sent to the club but which had never been received. When a copy of this letter was provided by the local Barclays branch, it contained no explanation other than it was a “difficult decision” to make. 

Dan said: “It was an appalling time for us with wages and bills to pay, and we were lucky to have such understanding suppliers and customers as we tried to resolve the situation we found ourselves in through no fault of our own. I am disgusted with how we were treated by Barclays and we know it’s happened to others also. Something needs to be done and the banks should not be allowed to close down accounts on a whim without any explanation or justification – that should be made illegal. It is hard enough for people to run a business as it is without the threat of bank account closures looming in the background.” 

Mill Farm Clay Pigeon Club, also in East Sussex, has operated a once a fortnight clay shoot for the past 35 years and is currently run in partnership by Sue and Darren Daunt. In December last year, their Barclays partnership business account was suddenly shut down with no notice; the first they knew of this was being unable to access online banking, followed by hours on the phone trying to find out what happened. 

Sue explained: “Barclays made us feel like criminals and the whole experience of being shut down like that, followed by the difficulty in finding another bank, was something I hope we never have to go through again. An amazing supplier gave us credit while we completed six different business account applications. 

“We were so nearly forced to close the business because of what happened. The banks should not be getting away with treating customers with such contempt.” 

Unexplained closures 

These are not the only cases. Barclays is sending account holders forms to complete to prove their identity and the activities of their business or club. This can be a very invasive and time-consuming process, and involves inappropriate threats to close accounts and sudden unexplained closures. 

Whether Barclays is specifically targeting the shooting sector with these reviews remains unclear, but they are clearly not acting fairly and potentially in breach of existing rules and regulations based on what we have seen. BASC is supporting a number of live cases involving Barclays, and the Financial Ombudsman Service is currently investigating one case. 

Northall and Mill Farm clay pigeon clubs successfully opened new accounts with Lloyds Bank, which is positive, but Barclays should never have put them in that position. 

The Financial Conduct Authority continues its review into banking services and we intend submitting further evidence to that. So, if you have been impacted, please help us piece the jigsaw together by emailing me at [email protected]