Questions of Cash: The Co-operative Bank? Not this time: The Independent

Posted on January 18, 2009 · Posted in The Independent

Q. At the beginning of October 2008, I sent a cheque and an application form to the Co-operative Bank to put £250,000 into a three-month deposit account. Three months later, in spite of numerous telephone calls, the account has not been opened. The first delay was because the bank decided I needed to fill in a second form. We sent that in, but still nothing happened for weeks. We then sent a duplicate. The Co-op had apparently approved the account and claimed to have sent my cheque to Alliance and Leicester for clearing. A&L denied receiving it. We then stopped the original cheque and issued a new one. The original cheque turned up immediately at A&L and the Co-op wrote to say it would charge a fee for processing a cheque that had been stopped. This is the only letter we have had from the Co-op. Not only is this inefficient and incompetent, but I am annoyed that the onus has been put on me to sort this out. WK, Totnes.


A. The Co-operative Bank says it was correct in requiring further information, which was necessary to comply with money laundering regulations. Your completed second form apparently did not arrive with the bank. You were then incorrectly notified by the Co-op that it had sent the cheque to A&L for clearing. When the cheque (still in the possession of the Co-op) was not cleared the Co-op advised you to put a stop on it and issue a replacement. This failure was made worse when the Co-op charged you for having stopped the cheque on its advice. Subsequently, your first cheque was presented to A&L, which refused to honour it in compliance with your stop notice. The Co-op has now opened the account and back-dated interest to 19 November – the date at which the bank accepts it should have opened the account. The Co-op Bank has also cancelled the stopped cheque fee and offered to pay you £50 as a goodwill gesture. But you are so unhappy with the experience that you have declined to accept it and are instead closing all your existing accounts with the bank.

Q. I had thought that by paying off my credit card account in full and on time every month by direct debit that I would not be charged interest. I was wrong. My credit card company, Marks & Spencer, takes the correct amount of money, but applies some of this to pay off overseas cash advance fees for the following month, which are not on the account for the period being paid. Then the next month you get a large interest charge for not having cleared the previous month in full! I feel this is a crafty scam. PM, Hampshire.

A. Actually the explanation is an IT system that seems not fit for purpose. Marks & Spencer says it does not wish to impose the charges, which are levied on “a very small proportion of our customer base – those who withdraw cash on their credit card and also pay their balance off in full each month”. M&S promises that it refunds all its customers where this situation is brought to its attention – about 50 people last year. A spokeswoman adds: “We are working hard on resolving this and should be able to implement a ‘fix’ in the next few months.”

Q. I am having difficulty in obtaining a refund from Expedia. I booked a flight in October with BMI, travelling to Las Vegas on 6 November this year. Just over a week later, BMI cancelled the flight. Three weeks later, I had not received the refund. I phoned Expedia and was cut off three times while holding to speak to people. Instead of the refund, I was offered alternatives that were inferior and not acceptable. I insisted on a refund and was told that this would take two weeks. Now I am told the refund could take 12 weeks, but I see no reason why my money should be kept by other people for so long. I have spent about £10 on phone calls trying to sort this out. JC, Rotherham.

A. You paid using a Barclaycard, so we took the matter up with both Expedia and, because we did not get an immediate response from them, with Barclaycard. Barclaycard quickly responded that the refund had just been processed by BMI. However, Expedia withheld £10 from the refund for its administrative costs – leaving you £20 out of pocket because BMI cancelled flights that had been sold to you. We then contacted Expedia again, and it agreed to pay you the full £20, including the cost of your calls. Delays on repayments for cancelled flights are a regular source of dissatisfaction for readers and it is a problem that the airline industry should put right.

Q. I had a package with Orange for mobile phone and internet access, for which I paid £30 a month. I decided to cancel the contract. I requested a MAC code in April to change provider. Orange told me I did not need to cancel my mobile phone account as this would happen automatically. I didn’t believe them, so I wrote a letter of cancellation in April. In June, Orange wrote demanding £60 for May and June. I wrote and explained that I had cancelled the contract. In July, I received another payment demand. Again I wrote, without reply. Then I got another payment demand, for £90, threatening legal action. At the end of July I had a reply to one of my letters, saying that a credit had been applied to my account while the situation was sorted out. But then in October I had two demands for payment of £59.99. In November, I had two letters demanding £89.99 and then in December another bill for £119.35. I just cannot get Orange to take any notice of my letters. SW, Skipton.

A. Orange says there was a “misunderstanding regarding the termination of [your] account”. The account has now been closed and all outstanding charges cleared. Orange apologises.

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