Questions of Cash: Endowment standards fall short: The Independent


Q. Our 25-year endowment policy with Norwich Union (NU) matured in March. For most of the term, the final payment was predicted at £36,750. A year ago, NU advised of a possible shortfall of £1,250. The actual payment is £2,895 below the target amount. No information was provided about how the maturity proceeds were calculated – not even the amount of the final bonus was revealed. We complained to NU about this. It replied that the policy was sold through our financial advisers and questions and complaints should be directed to them. But our complaint was not about advice, it was about performance and NU’s failure to explain how the maturity value was calculated. DW, London.


A. NU – which became Aviva this week – has now provided a comprehensive explanation of how the final payment was calculated. It points out that earlier projections reflected a then higher final bonus rate: it was reduced at the beginning of this year. Aviva argues that five letters sent to you between 2003 and 2008 all warned that that there was a “significant risk” that the target final payment would not be achieved. However, NU has not claimed it gave you additional warning of the impact on your final payment of the reduction in the final bonus. It apologises for responding inappropriately to your letter of complaint and for redirecting this to your financial adviser.

Q. Barclaycard started charging me £8.99 a month in January 2009 for ‘My Stuff’, which I did not order. I called Barclaycard and queried the charge and was told that it was for ‘insurance’. But I had not requested this. I was told that ‘in the fine print’ of my agreement it said the charge would be applied unless I specifically requested not to have it. Barclaycard told me to contact My Stuff – who told me to contact Barclaycard. I have been charged for four months – a total of £35.96. ES, London.

A. Barclaycard has now refunded the charge, plus an extra £25 to compensate for the inconvenience.

Q. Last year I opened a Halifax credit card, using an interest-free transfer offer. I quickly repaid the balance. I have now had a letter telling me that as I have not used the card Halifax has reduced my credit limit and will close the card on its expiry date. I want to retain the card for household emergencies. AA, Cornwall.

A. A lot of holders of credit cards are having their limits lowered and their cards withdrawn as banks try to reduce their financial exposure. However, Halifax assures us this was not the reason it intended to close your account. It has agreed to renew your card when it expires, reinstating your previous credit limit of £2,300.

Q. I have given up my car to save money and have obtained refunds, without problem, for my car insurance and parking permit. But the AA refuses to refund me. I paid £97.50 at the start of October and got rid of my car in March. I believe I am due a refund of about £56. HO, by email.

A.The AA has agreed to make a full refund “as a gesture of goodwill” as you were “a long-standing member with a good call-out record”.

Q. For the past year I have had an ongoing battle with Tiscali to sort out my broadband and phone bill. I moved out of a property in May last year, cancelling the line a month in advance as Tiscali recommended. The line was not closed, causing me to make about 12 calls to get this done. I believe the line was eventually cancelled in September. From May until September the current tenant of the property used the line – out of necessity as they could not set-up a new phone account until Tiscali had cancelled the line. I believe that neither I nor the current tenant should pay the £60 bill for the account from May to September. After several months and many phone conversations I was told the bill would be wiped and neither myself nor the tenant would have to pay. Now I have received a reminder to pay my outstanding bill. AN, Thame.

A.Tiscali has now agreed to clear the account.

Q. I wanted to attend a course in Paris in January and decided to go by train. In November, I tried to buy an ‘Interlink’ return from Nottingham to Paris via Eurostar on the internet, but the system would not let me buy a ticket. After experimenting, I found I could buy a single from Nottingham to Paris, a single from Paris to St Pancras and a single from St Pancras to Nottingham. Eurostar’s helpline subsequently explained that I had been sold an incorrect and expensive set of tickets and refunded me the Eurostar singles and gave me a much cheaper return. The Trainline/East Midlands Trains helpline explained that engineering works could affect my return from St Pancras to Nottingham, which is why I had been sold an ‘open’, expensive, ticket. This was also refundable and even after the journey date I could get a refund on the unused ticket. I was not permitted to exchange the ticket, but could buy another ticket, pay a £10 administration fee and then get a refund, which was still cheaper. But after travelling I posted the unused ticket to Trainline, with a covering letter. Trainline says it did not receive the returned ticket. I had kept a copy and sent this. Again Trainline told me it had not received this. I sent another copy. Then once more Trainline wrote to me asking for the tickets. MS, Nottingham.

A.Trainline says that unfortunately your claim for a refund coincided with a period of widespread rail disruption because of heavy snow, causing an 80 per cent increase in the number of claims. It accepts you had an “inadequate response” to your claim. It has refunded the £49.70 it owed you.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we’ll do our best to help. Please email us at:

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