Questions of Cash: The Independent

Posted on October 1, 2011 · Posted in The Independent

Q. I am having terrible problems with Barclaycard, which is damaging my health. Barclaycard are demanding £4735.17 from me, using debt collectors. Yet I had previously cleared and closed my account by transferring to another credit card. Barclaycard claims that I made cash withdrawals from ATMs in the UK that I have never visited and while I was on honeymoon in Thailand. I don’t understand why they did not alert me to the unusual activity on my credit card account, or allow transactions after I had closed the account. Barclaycard has refused to properly engage with me and will only provide documents which, it says, prove I owe the money if I pay them a fee. A letter regarding the account was sent to my previous address – from where, I suspect the fraud was being conducted – despite me having properly notified Barclaycard of my change of address. I am also very upset at the way that a Barclaycard employee spoke to me on the phone. VC, Cirencester.

A. You raised this problem with us in July last year and it has been a frustration both to you and us that this has taken so long to resolve. Barclaycard has accepted your case and agreed to pay you compensation of £4,585 – very significantly higher than the initial offer of £50! The final offer reflects the level of distress you suffered, plus your costs, and you have accepted this. Barclaycard has also recalled the account from the debt collection agency, written-off the debt and corrected your credit file. Barclaycard says it offers “unreserved apologies for the impact this experience has had” on you.

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 said she could have 100 minutes of calls and unlimited texts for £10 a month, including calls to her family in Italy.  She was assured her bill would not exceed £10 a month.  After six weeks she received a bill for over £40.   She went back to the store, but 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 she seems to have signed a contract and direct debit authorization 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 is clear that she was 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.

Q. I am appalled at the service failure I have experienced from TalkTalk and its predecessor company Tiscali. For three weeks I had no broadband service, even while I was paying for it. My correspondence with TalkTalk has not been properly answered. I had an exchange of 28 emails with TalkTalk: it took 12 hours of my time and 10 weeks to resolve the problem. To make matters worse, TalkTalk has offered me £30 as compensation – which costs my time at a mere £2.50 an hour. SB, by email.

A. We have had no more success than you have. A spokeswoman for the company says: “TalkTalk have investigated [the reader’s] case and have issued an offer of compensation which [the reader] has refused.  We believe this offer is fair and as agreement can not be reached we have now issued a deadlock letter.” You also forwarded to us an email that was personally sent to you by Charles Dunstone, chairman of both TalkTalk and CarphoneWarehouse. He wrote: “I am sure you will be unsurprised to hear that I fully support the amount of the goodwill gesture you have been offered…. and suggest you accept it. In the longer term I suspect it would be better for all of us if you were to find an alternative supplier.” Readers may not be surprised that this column receives a lot of complaints about TalkTalk and CarphoneWarehouse. We suggest you take the matter further by lodging a formal complaint with the telephone ombudsman, to which TalkTalk subscribes: Otelo (the Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsman): details of how to complain are published on its website, www.otelo.org.uk.

Q. I purchased breakdown cover from Aviva in August. When I bought it I told the salesperson that I would soon be buying a new car from Ford, which would supply free breakdown cover. I was told that if I did, I would be able to have a refund from Aviva for the unused period of cover. I bought my new car and cancelled my Aviva cover on 5 October, when I was told I would get a refund as a voucher. This did not happen and I have consistently failed to get a satisfactory response from Aviva’s customer service centre. BB, Canvey Island.

A. Aviva apologises “for falling short of our usually high standard of customer service”.  Apparently the wrong code was entered into Aviva’s IT system for the contract cancellation, but the advisors you spoke to were unaware of this and wrongly assumed that vouchers would be issued as promised. Aviva has now agreed to pay you a full cash refund of £59.14, plus a £50 shopping voucher as a gesture of goodwill.