Questions of Cash: The Independent

Posted on October 1, 2011 · Posted in The Independent

Q My parents are both retired and disabled. Last March they ordered from Virgo Healthcare two mobility scooters for £4,600. They soon discovered that they were unable to use them, so they contacted Virgo Healthcare, which agree to a full refund and collected the scooters on 27 April. Since then, no refund has been supplied. KB, Hertfordshire.

A At about the time you contacted us last year, Virgo Healthcare ceased trading. This followed a BBC programme which alleged that Virgo Healthcare systematically mis-sold disability products. Had your parents paid by credit card, we would have been optimistic that they would have recovered their losses, as credit suppliers are jointly liable for the supply of goods. Your parents instead paid by Visa debit card – which provides a more limited guarantee. You state that the reason why your parents rejected the mobility scooters was that they did not conform to the description provided by Virgo Healthcare. However, your parents merely said at the time that they were unable to use the scooters. We have spent several months trying to persuade Lloyds, as issuer of your parents Visa debit cards, to accept that the goods were mis-sold and on this basis that the Visa guarantee should apply. Lloyds adamantly refuses to request a Visa chargeback. We believe that Lloyds should have sought a chargeback, rather than insist that it was debarred from doing so because your elderly parents did not initially fully explain why they had rejected the scooters. Lloyds states: “Regrettably, the fact the company has ceased to trade has no bearing on the Visa chargeback rules and I am sorry to inform you, after further investigation, our position remains the same. The chargeback rules are determined by Visa and can only be applied if the goods are damaged or not as described. You have already stated the scooters were not damaged and the reason your parents wished to return them was because they were not able to use them. The chargeback rules will also not apply if the goods were delivered but then returned.” Hertfordshire Trading Standards has advised you to pursue the matter with the Financial Ombudsman: we agree. Trading standards officers in Derbyshire, where Virgo Healthcare was based, confirm that the company has ceased trading, but believe there are no assets left in the business against which your parents might recover their losses.

Q We took my father on holiday to Egypt with Page & Moy.  It was supposed to be a holiday of a lifetime after my father recently lost my mother.  Page & Moy was chosen as its brochure made their hotels appear better than others and would be worth the extra cost.  But there were many problems: the hotels were in poor condition, the English guide was unhelpful and did not know much about Egypt; there were far too many people on the trip so we couldn’t all get into rooms/tombs or hear the local guide.  When I complained, Page & Moy only offered me £150 refund in vouchers, despite me asking for one third of the cost to be repaid. AP, Croydon.

A Page & Moy apologises for your disappointment, but says that 95% of holidaymakers on this tour rated it as excellent and 94% said they would recommend it to a friend. However, future similar holidays will now be limited to a maximum number of 25 guests and tour guides must now be people with expert local knowledge and who live locally. Page & Moy has converted the refund offer from vouchers to a cash refund, but is not willing to increase the level of compensation. The total cost of your holiday was £1,650 for your party: you do not believe that the £150 refund represents a reasonable level of compensation. Page & Moy is a member of ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, which operates a dispute resolution scheme. We recommend that you pursue your complaint through ABTA.

Q I recently applied for a bank account with First Direct. Initially I was warmly received by them, but then I found there was a problem with my Experian credit report. This was because I was wrongly shown as not being on the electoral register – a mistake that was rectified two years ago. LR, London.

A Experian says that your credit report correctly shows you as being on the electoral register and this is not the reason for any problems you have with First Direct. The agency suggests you purchase a copy of your credit reference report – which can be obtained for £2 – which should enable you to determine where any problems actually lie. If, as seems likely, an adverse entry has been made as a result of a past dispute between yourself and a financial institution, you can request that you insert an entry to summarise your own version of the dispute. Experian indicates that it will assist you in doing this.

Q. My daughter-in-law is Italian. She bought a mobile phone from a Tesco store in Nottingham. The person who sold her the phone told her that she could have 100 minutes of calls and unlimited texts for £10 a month, including any calls to her family in Italy.  She was assured that her bill would not exceed £10 a month.  After six weeks she returned to the store, having received a bill for more than £40.   Tesco said it could not help her; when she ‘phoned its online support, she received the same reply. Tesco took the money straight from her bank account and it appeared that she had signed a contract and direct debit order to her bank without realising the implications.  She has since received three more bills averaging £45. When I read the contract it said that for £10 a month she could only phone friends or family in the UK, which is no good at all to her as most of her family live in Italy. It became clear that she had been mis-sold the ‘phone. Tesco has agreed this with me and she has returned the phone. But she has now received a final bill for £161.63. AH, Lincoln.

A A spokeswoman for Tesco Mobile says: “We are sorry to hear that [the reader’s daughter-in-law] felt she did not receive the correct information about calls that were inclusive in her monthly contract.  We always advise customers to thoroughly read their contract where details of their tariff are clearly outlined, before signing any mobile contract.  As a gesture of goodwill we are closing the balance of her account without any early termination charges.” Both you and your daughter-in-law are satisfied with this.