Questions of Cash: The Independent

Posted on October 1, 2011 · Posted in The Independent

Q. In May I asked you to help me with a default report on my credit record file, which you were unable to get amended. But the reason for the default was that I borrowed £10,000 in 2006 from HSBC, which I could not afford to repay. That was because I was made redundant just three months after taking out the loan and also the cost of the interest and insurance on the loan made the repayments unaffordable. I now realise that the payment protection insurance on the loan was not valid and I think that I should be able to reclaim this. I cannot get anywhere with HSBC’s customer services department. EZ, London.

A. We asked HSBC about your possible entitlement to a refund of your premiums and it then wrote to you offering to repay £1,737. You responded by contacting us again to question why the amount was not higher, saying that you read in this column of another reader who recovered £3,000 in payment protection insurance premiums on a £10,000 loan. You pointed out that the letter indicated that the bank “cannot respond on a case-by-case basis” to all such enquiries and wondered whether this might mean that you were owed more than you were offered. We have obtained a copy of the calculation used by HSBC. This shows that the value of the loan you took out was in fact not £10,000, but actually £7,500. The cost of the premiums you paid was £1,211.68. An additional £512.81 has been added to this, at a notional 8% rate of interest. You have been given six weeks to decide whether to accept the offer. We suggest that you accept.

Q. I am having a problem with the AA. On 29 July my bank account was debited by the AA for £291.00 in payment of my membership fees. I then received my membership statement dated 29 July detailing cost and the total renewal cost was given as £212.87. I have contacted customer services, who have been unhelpful. It seems to me the AA should refund me £78.13. FW, Rotherham.

A. The AA did make a mistake, but the size of the overcharge was much less than you calculated. A spokesman for the AA explains: “We mistakenly debited the incorrect amount in the first instance, but this has now been rectified. The confusion arose because the total debited – £291 – also included AA Breakdown Repair Cover. [The reader] took out this additional level of cover, which is charged separately. The Breakdown Repair Cover element was £75.50 and the breakdown cover itself was £212.87, totalling £288.37. We took £291 in error, so we have since refunded £2.63 to his card.”

Q. I have two mobile phones, both with Vodafone, one for daily use and the other a tri-band phone acquired for trips to the USA and kept in the car here for emergency use. My regular phone is on a direct debit PAYG deal; the other is simply PAYG with over £20 in credit on it. I check the second phone regularly, charging the battery and checking that it still rings out, by calling the credit line and my home or other mobile. Vodafone has now terminated that subscription and ‘recycled the number’, saying that I have not made a chargeable call or topped up the phone’s credit within their required timescale. Vodafone says that it has a semi-dormant period when I would be able to receive calls, but not make them. I have not, however, experienced this. I was certainly able to ring out till very recently, although I accept that I haven’t made a successfully connected and chargeable call for some time. Vodafone says that it does not warn customers about the termination of their subscription and that it will not return my money. SE, by email.

A. Mobile phone operators are under pressure from the regulator to recycle unused numbers, because of a shortage of new available numbers. A spokeswoman for Vodafone says: “As the number was only recently disconnected, we are able to retrieve it.  We will also refund the £20 credit that was lost on disconnection. We are sorry that [the reader] was inconvenienced, but our regulator, Ofcom, asks us to be ‘economical’ with the issuing of phone numbers, so we recycle them when we can.  As you might imagine, PAYG customers don’t tell us when they no longer require a number so we have to make assumptions.    If a phone hasn’t been used for 90 days – we can only recognise usage if a chargeable call is made – we assume the number is no longer wanted so it goes into quarantine. At this stage, the phone can usually be reactivated by the customer simply making call. After 90 days in quarantine, the number is disconnected. We then wait another 90 days before reusing the number. It is also worth noting that we are unable to check how much credit is on a PAYG phone. To avoid disconnection, we advise our customers to make a chargeable call every month or so, checking that the battery is charged at the same time. Vodafone’s terms and conditions warn that if a customer does not use the service for 180 days by making a chargeable outbound call then it may suspend the service, but it will reconnect the service within 90 days if requested to do so. Anyone having their service disconnected for this reason loses the credit balance on their account.

Q. I requested O2 to move my fixed line phone service from our home in Burgess Hill to our new home in Chichester. I was promised by text message that this was happening. Ten days later it has still not happened, because, it says, of a ‘procedural error’. Can you get this sorted out? BW, Sussex.

A. O2 advises us that the broadband was connected soon after we took the matter with the company.