Questions of Cash: August 2015

Q. I have paid my TV licence by monthly direct debit. In May 2012, shortly after my 75th birthday, I received a licence that would automatically renew until 2016. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask about this at the time.  When I did inquire, in June this year, it was confirmed I was eligible for a free licence. I stopped the direct debit and sought a refund – but received a cheque for just £84.90, this being the sum overpaid for the seven months to June 2015. When I inquired about the remaining two years and seven months’ payments, I was sent an “application for a refund” form, which I completed. This totalled £375.84, comprising: £84.84 for May 2012 to November 2012; £145.50 for December 2012 to November 2013; and £145.50 for December 2013 to November 2014. But the details of my claim were ignored and I was sent a cheque for only one year, £145.50.  I queried this and was told I would have to send bank statements to prove each payment.  I am uncomfortable with sending 19 months of bank statements and feel I’m being made to jump through hoops to delay or avoid returning the balance of my money, £230.34. BK, Birmingham

A. There was a misunderstanding in your phone conversation with the TV licensing authority. The operative you spoke to did not realise you had already made an application, and therefore requested information that you had already provided.  The licensing authority apologises for any inconvenience and has now sent you the remaining element of your refund.

Q. I booked a car hire in November last year, online with Hertz, to collect from Brive airport in France in May, returning it to the airport two weeks later. Everything went well and the car was returned to Brive airport as arranged.  When my American Express card bill came through, there was an additional charge from Hertz of £87.52 – converted from €117.25. I queried this and was told that €35 was for an additional driver, which was correct, with the balance of €82.25 being an “inter-city charge”. This was because I supposedly had not returned the car to the place from where it had been collected. This was incorrect.  A helpful customer services representative on the phone checked the computer, saw that the car had been returned to Brive and instituted a refund of the inter-city charge with the firm’s French office. This came through, but only amounted to €75.25. I would like to warn other Hertz customers to check their bills. GK, London

A. Hertz apologises. It has now refunded the balance due to you. A spokeswoman added: “This situation was due to an unintentional human error, with no discourtesy intended. Every Hertz location has a unique code that is used internally.  “When closing a rental in the system, the CSR [customer services representative] has to enter the branch’s code, which in this case had one incorrect digit. This resulted in the vehicle showing as returned to a downtown location in Brive, which automatically generated a “one way” fee on the rental agreement.”

Q. I see the Chancellor is cutting the size of the deposit protection scheme from £85,000 to £75,000. Does this apply to existing savings accounts too?  I invested money in building societies on the basis that the guarantee was £85,000. Without this protection I would not have invested. Changing the terms and conditions of an investment when the accounts are still running is tantamount to government fraud. CE, Wales

A. The deposit guarantee is, indeed, being cut by £10,000 – but not until January. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which administers the guarantee, says 95 per cent of all savers will still be covered once the limit is reduced.  It explained: “The change comes under the European Union Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive. It fixes a harmonised limit of €100,000 [or the equivalent] across Europe.  It added: “The change in the deposit protection limit is necessary because of a strong sterling exchange rate against the euro.”

The limit has actually been increased – with immediate effect – to £1m for balances held on a short-term basis, with a six-month protection window. This will be useful for people who are, for example, moving home and have large amounts of money in their account for a short time.

It should be remembered that the protection applies to one person, per institution. Protection is therefore double this amount for a joint account.  However, an individual with deposits in different brands belonging to the same financial institution are subject to the limit across all these accounts.  For example, if someone has £85,000 with the Bank of Scotland and another £85,000 with the Halifax, the current protection is available only to a limit of £85,000 – and £75,000 in January – because Halifax is authorised as part of Bank of Scotland. The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority is consulting on rules to enable depositors to make withdrawals to bring balances within the new £75,000 limit without charge.

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