Questions of Cash: December 2015

Posted on December 31, 2015 · Posted in The Independent

Q. TalkTalk required me to pay £95 in August for a breakage fee when I moved broadband providers.  But I had never entered into a contract with TalkTalk that agreed a breakage fee. I had been told over the phone in July that I only needed to pay the final month’s rental of £37 and this was paid promptly. Our broadband connection had been with AOL and we became customers of TalkTalk when AOL sold that part of the business. We were with AOL for many years and had not entered into a contract that included a breakage fee. After the transfer of services to TalkTalk I did discuss a contract with a TalkTalk representative who agreed to send the terms and conditions by email for me to check during the ‘cooling off’ period. But the terms and conditions were never provided and I never made any formal agreement. I queried the imposition of a breakage fee with TalkTalk in a letter, but never received a reply.  I did later receive a letter from TalkTalk’s customer relations department, insisting that the charge was correct as the company “did not have any evidence that [I] was not under obligation to pay such a fee”. I would have thought legally the onus was on TalkTalk to prove there was a contract in place specifying a breakage fee was payable, not on me to prove it was not.  I did receive a phone call in September promising that I would be sent a refund of £85.95 within ten days, but I have never received this.  I chased it up three weeks later, but was told the refund had been cancelled.  A few days later I was contacted by TalkTalk to be told that my account was in credit balance by £85.95, after which I sent TalkTalk a message through its online chat system requesting payment.  Again I was promised a cheque within ten days, which again did not arrive.  Once more I contacted TalkTalk and once more I was promised a cheque within ten days and once more it did not arrive.  I regard this as shabby treatment.  JW, Shropshire.

A. TalkTalk has, at last, sent you the payment, which you have received.  A spokesman for TalkTalk says: “We are sorry we made a mistake and applied a contract breakage fee to [the reader’s] account when he was not in contract, and that a systems fault meant his refund was not processed as promised. We have apologised and sent a cheque.”

Q. Our son is owed approximately £200 for expenses owed to him whilst he was working for British Airways, which had been pre-paid by him.  He sent BA the original receipts many months ago, but after receiving no monies or acknowledgement we applied to the Small Claims Court online.  We submitted a claim against BA in September and obtained judgment in November.  He has still not been paid. Can you suggest what we should do next?  JK, Leicestershire.

A. We contacted BA, which told us it was unaware of your son’s expenses claim.  We then forwarded the copy of expenses receipts, which you had kept.  A spokeswoman for BA says: “We resolved the matter directly with [the reader’s son], as soon as we were made aware of the issue.”  We understand your son has now received payment.

Q. I ceased to be a customer of First Utility in September, with First Utility owing me £450.43.  In October, First Utility without permission withdrew by direct debit a further £59.00.  In November, First Utility told me that a cheque had been “raised”, but the call centre operative could not tell me what had happened to it.  I have phoned repeatedly since then and written to the chief executive, but all to no avail.  SM, Argyll.

A. First Utility has now repaid the full balance owed to you.  A spokeswoman says: “We are sorry to hear that [the reader] has experienced problems collecting the money she is owed. We need[ed] to wait for the final closing read to come through from her new supplier before we could create a final invoice which took some time in this instance. In the meantime we took another direct debit payment in error. Her account was closed in mid November and a final invoice was raised showing a credit was due. Subsequently we issued a cheque to cover this refund, including the additional direct debit payment that was taken in error.”

Q. I had accumulated 9,307 ‘YourPoints’, worth £46.53, on my NatWest credit card.  In May I received a letter saying the scheme would be discontinued and that I had until 31 October to redeem my points.  I attempted to order vouchers on several occasions, each time to be informed that there was a technical problem with the system.  When I phoned NatWest ‘Your Points’ I was told they could not find any trace of my credit card account and the points accumulated.  The card expired in May, but I did not close the account or cancel the card.  I was told to go to my NatWest branch, which was unable to help me other than to give me an address to write to.  I wrote a letter and received a reply saying that any points outstanding at the time an account was closed were cancelled.  But I never closed the account and I was never warned of this.  GA, by email.

A. NatWest has agreed to reinstate the value of your points.  A spokeswoman says: “We’ve had a look into this complaint and we have agreed to apply the customer’s points, along with the bonus they were due, to their NatWest Gold Plus Mastercard and they now have until 31st March 2016 to redeem their YourPoints. We’ve spoken to the customer, apologised for the inconvenience caused and she has confirmed she is happy with this outcome.”  You tell us that you received from NatWest £65 in Marks & Spencer vouchers.