Questions of Cash: May 2015

Posted on August 4, 2015 · Posted in The Independent

Q. I saw an article in The Independent (‘Max-Herve George: The man fighting a merciless legal war against insurance giant Aviva’, 10 April), about a very large legal claim against Aviva.  I am planning to retire in a few years and have more than £50,000 with Aviva.  Should I consider moving my pension fund to another provider?  NK, by email.

A. A spokeswoman for Aviva responds: “Aviva France has been managing this issue for over a decade. It’s not new. Aviva France remains appropriately provisioned and its reserves are reviewed annually with the French regulator.”  We also asked financial advisors Hargreaves Lansdown for its opinion on Aviva.  Danny Cox said: “Will Aviva go bust? That is highly unlikely and if it did the FSCS limit for a long term insurance product such as a personal pension is 90 per cent of the value, with no upper limit. Will the charges on the pension plan go up? Again very unlikely.  Contracts taken out since 2000 are generally much better value than prior to that date and the weight of competition in the market is driving charges down, not up. If Aviva decided to increase the charges you would have the option to transfer to another provider.  Will the investment performance of the funds deteriorate?  Possibly, but they could also improve: it depends upon whether Aviva decide to invest some of the cost savings of the takeover [of Friends Life] in their fund management teams and process. A move of provider perhaps to a SIPP [self-invested personal pension] could provide more investment choice of funds, shares, trackers, ETFs [exchange traded funds], etc. This may or may not reduce cost, but could provide better performance. The takeover of Friends Life by Aviva will have very little impact on an existing personal pension.”

Q.  My husband and I would like to give our son in Australia a substantial sum, £50,000. Is there a safe, less costly route than bank transfer?  SS, by email.

A. A good currency exchange specialist is likely to offer you a better exchange rate and lower charges than the banks.  If you log onto fxcompared.com and enter the details of your transfer, you can obtain a quote and compare rates, charges and terms and conditions.

Q. I logged onto my online Santander bank account to pay a bill. Moments after I logged off I received a call from the bank’s security department.  A very aggressive woman called me back and interrogated me for 15 minutes. She asked me so many questions that I wondered if this was a fraudster calling me.  She asked me for my date of birth, the security number the back of my card, my mother’s maiden name, my account security number and four numbers from my password.  It was relentless! In the end I hung up out of exasperation.  She then locked me out of my account out of spite when I tried to make an official complaint.  Afterwards I received more calls from the bank, was given a further interrogation, put on hold for 15 minutes and told that if I opted out of these security calls I will be liable for  any fraudulent withdrawals from my account. I am being penalised just for trying to pay my council tax!  VB, London.

A. Your account has now been unlocked and credited with £40 as a gesture of goodwill.  The bank has also contacted you to provide an apology for the “unintended distress”.  A spokeswoman for Santander says: “[The reader] contacted us after she was locked out of her online bank account having set up a new online payment for over £1,000. At a time when fraudulent activity is on the increase, further procedures have been put in place to protect our customers: our main concern is the security of our customers’ accounts. We called the customer to confirm she intended to make the transfer and asked her some routine security questions. After responding to some of the questions, the customer hung up, claiming that the fraud contact centre were rude, aggressive and potentially a fraudster.  We have reviewed the calls the customer had with our fraud contact centre, but cannot agree that any advisors were rude or aggressive. During all calls the advisors remained polite and our correct procedures were followed at all times. However, it is evident from one of the calls that the customers was provided with the incorrect information regarding the option to opt out from our automated calls: we are sorry this happened. I can confirm feedback has been provided to senior managers in our fraud contact centre to ensure all staff are providing the correct information at all times and should further training be required, this will be provided.”

Q. I would like your help to obtain a reimbursement of £18 from H&M for a pair of trousers that I had to shorten at the dry cleaners, as they were too long. I checked they were shortened to the right length and they were fine. When I got them back home, I washed them as per the label washing instructions. I then took them on holiday, but when I wore them for the first time, I noticed they were shorter than the length I had them taken up to, which was distressing and inconvenient. They had shrunk in the wash.  I took the trousers back and got a refund, but H&M has refused to refund the cost of the trouser legs being taken up.  MS, London.

A spokeswoman for H&M responds.  “The customer received a full refund on the price of the trousers. However, as the customer service agent advised, H&M cannot reimburse customers for any alteration costs incurred. As a gesture of goodwill on this occasion we have offered the customer a £20 gift card for any inconvenience caused and hope they continue to shop with H&M in the future.”  You have accepted this offer.