Questions of Cash: December 2013

Q.  Several weeks ago, I made a purchase from the Wine Society, using a John Lewis Partnership MasterCard, as I had done many times previously. But on this occasion payment was refused, apparently on the grounds that this was an ‘unusual transaction’. To make matters worse, I was not told that a problem had arisen, which was embarrassing.  I wrote to the John Lewis Partnership twice, asking what constitutes an ‘unusual transaction’.  I also want to know whether my credit reference has been damaged by this event.  Unfortunately I have not had a reply. DC, London.

A.  Justin van der Pant, general manager operations for the John Lewis & Waitrose Partnership Card, says:  “John Lewis & Waitrose Partnership Card has rigorous standards in place to protect its customers. We always closely monitor transactions to help prevent fraud and if we feel it necessary, we may block payments and contact the customer immediately to clarify whether the transactions were genuine.  Unfortunately in this case we were unable to reach [the reader].   We can assure [the reader] that his credit rating has not been affected. We review all claims on a case by case basis. In recognition of the inconvenience caused by this particular incident we will, as a gesture of goodwill, send [the reader] some John Lewis vouchers.”  You now have £50 of vouchers to spend in John Lewis or Waitrose stores.


Q.  In September 2007 I delivered my daughter at a London hospital. I applied for child benefit immediately, but I was told, without explanation, that I was not entitled.  I appealed against the decision. The Tribunal Services recorded a decision that I was not entitled to child benefit because I was subject to immigration control and did not satisfy the prescribed requirement. I appealed again and a first tier tribunal disallowed the appeal on the same grounds, that I am an asylum seeker.  In March 2010 I was given indefinite leave to remain and so I applied for British passports, for myself and my daughter.  I was surprised to learn from Home Office that my child was already a British citizen by virtue of her father being a British citizen. If my daughter were British at birth, should she not be entitled to child benefit, regardless of my immigration status? Is it too late to claim my child benefit entitlement now? TA, London.


A.  A spokesman for HMRC responds: “Whilst I cannot comment on the specific case, eligibility for child benefit depends on a number of different factors, but all are based on eligibility of the recipient – not the child. One of the main tests for child benefit is around residence – you need to be a have a ‘right to reside’ in the UK, or be an ‘ordinary resident’. Further guidance can be found at  If the customer still feels she is eligible, she needs to contact the child benefit helpline who will look into the details of her claim on 0300 200 3100.”  Pól Callaghan of Citizens Advice provided a more detailed explanation.  He said: “Child benefit is paid to a person who is responsible for a child or qualifying young person.  The responsible adult must pass residence and presence tests and not be subject to immigration control. If you are a person subject to immigration control then you do not have recourse to public funds. Child benefit comes within the definition of ‘public funds’ in the immigration rules. The immigration status of the child is irrelevant. There are, however, a number of exceptions depending on nationality and reciprocal agreements. You can backdate tax credits, child benefit and guardian’s allowance to the date of your asylum application only if you have been granted refugee leave.  You cannot backdate these claims if you have only been granted humanitarian protection or other types of leave, as you must have been recognised as a refugee under in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention to qualify. In general terms a revision or supersession can only be applied within a time limit of 13 months.”


Q.  We keep a computer at our house in France as it is easier than transporting a laptop between there and our home in England.  We bought a new Dell Vostro in April and a computer technician set-up the PC in our English home.  It seemed to work fine, so we took it to France.  After a couple of days it stopped working.  I phoned Dell, which said we had to speak to Dell France.  After a long time on the phone we found it could not be fixed. I was promised by Dell in England that a technician would visit us in France.  But Dell got confused and someone came to our house in England. When we next visited France promised software had not arrived and the person who was going to home visit us in France had gone on holidays. We then took the PC back to England to request a replacement.  We were told this was not Dell’s policy, but they would send out a technician to replace the mother board and hard drive. The computer is now working properly, but I want compensation for the £77.50 I paid to bring the PC back to England.  PS, Buckinghamshire.


A.  Dell points out that as you bought the computer in the UK, the collect and return warranty only applies in the UK.  Dell says that it was as a gesture of goodwill that it connected you with a service engineer in France.  It was also, says Dell, a gesture of goodwill in recognition of your difficulty in contacting service centres in two countries that it offered to send out a technician to your home address in England, although home service was also not included in the terms of your purchase.  Its spokeswoman explains: “At no point was a technician offered or dispatched to support the customer in France, therefore any costs associated with the transport of the laptop between the two countries are the customers own.”


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