Questions of Cash: May 2015

Posted on August 4, 2015 · Posted in The Independent

Q  I have used gas and electric prepayment meters since March last year, when I began renting a property.  As I pay for energy ‘up-front’ from Scottish Power I was alarmed to receive a bill for £318 in February. On the bills I noticed that many of the top-up payments I had made had not been accounted for.  I wrote to Scottish Power to complain, as well as give details of my top-up payments. Attempts to communicate with Scottish Power by letter and email proved futile. I then telephoned customer services and was told that many of my top-up payments had gone into the previous tenant’s account. I was reassured this would be corrected. It wasn’t.  I tried phoning Scottish Power again, but was told my complaint would no longer be dealt with by phone. My communication with Scottish Power seems blocked and I have received more wrong bills.  The most recent bill still reports I am in debt and contains an obvious miscalculation about my energy use.  JH, Somerset.

A   Scottish Power seems no nearer resolving its catastrophic failure in customer services – at least if our readers’ correspondence is an accurate measure.  But it seems that our readers’ problems are resolved once Questions of Cash is involved.  A spokeswoman for Scottish Power says: “We have contacted [the reader] and apologised for the shortfalls in service and for the inconvenience this matter caused.   After carrying out a full investigation into his account we found that [the reader’s] key for his prepayment meter was set incorrectly which resulted in underpayments on his electricity account. This has now been corrected.  We have assured [the reader] we would apply an adjustment to clear off any debt owed due to this error.  In way of an apology we have issued a goodwill payment of £100.  [The reader] is satisfied the matter has now been resolved.”  You tell us that as a thank you for our involvement you have donated £90 of this to The Independent’s favoured charity ‘Space for Giants’.

Q  We are writing in desperation as we don’t know where to turn. In August last year we ordered three poppies from the Tower of London, paying for them by card. The money was taken out of our account – including nearly £20 for postage – and we looked forward to receiving them in the new year. We received an email in December informing us that the delivery was ahead of schedule and it was anticipated that delivery would be undertaken by the end of February. As we did not receive the poppies by that time, we emailed again and were told that they were delighted that 90 per cent of the poppies had been delivered.  They added that our delivery would be a little delayed, but that we would receive our poppies by the end of March at the latest. Yet we have still not received a single poppy and our emails are no longer being replied to. The dedicated phone number has recently been closed, so we contacted Historic Royal Palaces initially by email again with no success. We then phoned and were told that somebody would return our call by the end of the day, which did not happen.  MH, North Wales.

A  By a strange coincidence, the poppies that you waited months for were posted on the day we contacted the Historic Royal Palaces.  Their spokeswoman says: “Almost all of the ceramic poppies were successfully delivered to thousands of customers around the world by the end of March, however given the size and scale of the project a small number of deliveries have taken a little longer than we had originally anticipated. We are very sorry for the delay that [the reader] experienced, but we are glad that this has now been resolved. The few remaining poppies have been packaged and are currently being processed by Yodel.  We hope that everybody that has ordered a poppy will very shortly be in receipt of their delivery.”

Q  I have just moved abroad to join my husband and I have had real difficulties closing our Virgin Media account.  I feel bullied and threatened by Virgin Media, having received a ‘default notice’ warning of possible court proceedings.  Although the service was provided to our house, it was in my husband’s name as we were unable to open the account in joint names.  In trying to close the account I was asked for a password, which I did not have and my husband, already abroad, could not remember.  To avoid ongoing charges, I cancelled the direct debit and notified Virgin Media that I was doing this.  This was a small bill of £34.65 and we have been customers for several years, paying our account on time.  A customer-oriented organisation should make it easy for a consumer to carry out a transaction, including cancelling a service.  FC, Germany.

A  We can understand your upset, but Virgin Media insists it acted correctly.  A spokesman for the company says: “Our statement comes straight from our code of practice as it appears that there hasn’t been anything abnormal in the way we handled the account.  As the [reader and her husband] failed to pay their monthly bill through cancelling their direct debit without giving notice on the account (non payment isn’t a form of notice) we sent them notice of the late payment, including the handling charge for non direct debit payments. These first notices are typically followed by a standard letter which advises customers of some of the potential ramifications of late payment (for example, affecting your credit rating) along with details of where to find appropriate advice and support if needed. It may have been that the [reader] received these letters having paid their bills, in which case the letter would’ve been null & void.”  We put to Virgin Media that its responses could have taken into consideration your good payment history, but it restated that it had acted correctly.