Finans Norge hopes that a project called “Altinn dødsbo” will solve a number of problems for survivors.
– I recently became a widow, and my life was turned upside down, Kirsten Sandberg Natvig wrote in an article in Aftenposten on Saturday.
She described how financial clutter led to an extra burden in the midst of grief:
- The bank denied her access to her deceased husband’s payment obligations, and it canceled all his payment agreements.
- The situation was further aggravated by the fact that the man had run a sole proprietorship. The tax authorities continued to collect advances on VAT, and the creditors called for their money.
- Telenor cut off connection with network and telephone.
– A place
Finans Norge now hopes that Altinn’s estate will solve such difficulties for survivors.
– The goal is that they can contact one place and get a full overview of what financial agreements the deceased had. We believe this will help a lot of people, says information director Tom Staavi in Finans Norge.
Altinn dødsbo is a collaborative project between Finans Norge, the Directorate of Taxes, the Brønnøysund Register and the Directorate of Digitalisation. It started in June 2020, and the goal is a start in the first quarter of 2023.
– Deeply frustrating
Altinn estate will be a fully digital service. It shall be the heirs’ total source of information for settlement after death.
Here, information about the deceased’s financial circumstances is automatically collected, for example regarding wealth and debt, tax information, vehicles and property.
– The widow points to many challenging and deeply frustrating aspects. No one can disagree with that, says Staavi.
He does not know if Altinn’s estate will solve all the problems she raises.
– When you read her story, no one can be happy with the way it works today. We should have been spared this type of experience when we have lost someone close, says Staavi.
Strict privacy laws
– Do you have to have such strict confidentiality rules?
– There is an extremely strict regulation of the duty of confidentiality for banks related to their customers’ account conditions. It may seem strange to survivors who have lived a lifetime together. But the legislature has decided that this is the way it should be, and Finanstilsynet checks that the banks relate to this, he says.
The new Inheritance Act has some exceptions. Survivors can gain access to transactions in the last three months before the death. When special reasons so require, the right of access can be extended to 12 months.
– The legislature has finally decided that for access beyond this, there must be extraordinary circumstances, he says.
Telenor continued to send the invoices to the man’s bank even though she asked for a change. This entailed a reminder fee and an 8 percent penalty interest. In addition, they cut off the Internet connection via copper networks, and with it also access to telephones.
Petter-Børre Furberg, head of Telenor Norway, will first and foremost condole Natvig.
– We have routines that will ensure that relatives get the support they need to solve the practicalities when they contact us. We try to make it as simple as possible while we must ensure that changes, such as redundancies and changes of ownership, take place in the right way.
– We regret that Natvig received a reminder. We have rectified this, he writes in an e-mail.
According to Furberg, Telenor always ensures that the customer has access to new technology that provides telephony and internet before the copper line is phased out.
– Due to the lack of mobile coverage in this area, the copper connection was maintained. That this was not captured and communicated to Natvig, we just have to apologize and learn from, he writes.
Many have responded
Many have commented on Natvig’s post on Aftenposten’s Facebook page.
– This is very recognizable, unfortunately. I experienced much of the same thing when my mother died a few years ago, writes one.
– Thank you for being able to address this. You are not alone in these experiences, unfortunately, writes another.
Many express that they recognize themselves, and many write that they are shocked at how banks and the public sector have behaved.
Jorge Jensen, director of financial vulnerability in the Consumer Council, says that “administrative stumbling blocks” have been laid out for the bereaved.
– The tax authorities have this as a routine. This means that there will be more administration in the middle of the vulnerable period, says Jensen.
He says that in such cases Telenor could have made a change of ownership.
– Of course, losing telephony and the internet is brutal. In 2022, much of the customer service will be automated, and then there is a danger that standard solutions will also be used in special situations. In any case, Telenor could have chosen another solution, he says.
– Did you know that it works that way?
– Yes. At the same time, there are also solutions to get around this. Like getting a death notice from the district court. Then the survivors will manage the estate and have the opportunity to act against creditors.
– But it is not so easy for her to think in those terms when the death comes suddenly. It is an important text. We will do our part to provide better information on our own website. I think Natvig sheds light on an issue that concerns many, says Jensen.
With regard to more or less unspecified debt collection claims, he gives the following advice:
– We are aware that some debt collection agencies have sent out claims without it being explained well enough what the debt comes from. If there is any doubt as to whether it is a valid debt collection claim, dispute the claim. Then the debt collection agency has a duty to inform the case. In the meantime, the debt collection process is put on hold, says Jensen.