Questions of Cash: February 2014

Q. I have been trying for a year to sort out a problem with Npower regarding my gas and electricity, which it took over supplying in May 2012. I have not been charged correctly for the agreed tariff – Economy 7, Go Fix 11 – for May 2012 to May 2013. In June 2013, Npower assured me that I would be given the best tariff for the period May 2013 to May 2014. This has not happened either. And it would not let me change to another, cheaper supplier as the account was being reviewed.

My last bill was in November 2013, which was again wrong. I set aside payments for November and December, but I have not paid for charges based on the wrong tariff. I decided in November that I could not deal with Npower any longer and applied for a dual-fuel tariff with Scottish Power, which was to take over my supply on 6 January.

But then I had a letter from Npower saying it objected to my leaving as my preferred supplier had not properly registered my meters. I challenged this and was then told that Npower claimed I had two house supply numbers, although when Scottish Power checked the central register it found only one. I pointed out this error to Npower in January, but have not had a reply. JS, Leeds.

A. Npower says that it sent you an amended bill in July last year, putting you on the correct tariff for the previous period. But it accepts that it then failed to put you on the new tariff that was then agreed with you. It will now correct your latest bill, using the agreed tariff, so you will not lose out financially. Npower apologises for its mistakes and is sending you a £50 goodwill gesture.

Q. I have a one-bed flat. Between 14 September and 1 October 2012, I used 111 units of electricity. But Npower claims that between 15 October 2012 and 22 January 2013 I used 6,333 units at a cost of £815.88. I am a student and barely at home Monday to Friday. My heating and water heating are on a timer, coming on three times a day for a maximum of an hour. I now have an outstanding bill for £1,500, of which I have only been able to pay off £500 so far. Tenants in nearby flats are charged much less than me. I have taken this to the ombudsman, who found in favour of Npower and says I must agree a payment plan with the company. I am now receiving debt-collection letters. PC, Sheffield.

A. Npower says that it installed a “check meter” in your flat, which confirmed that your meter was correctly recording your electricity use. It believes that your bill is entirely consistent with your usage – which it says included running three convector heaters in winter. Npower adds that the ombudsman confirmed the accuracy of the bills. According to the company, you have refused to agree a payment plan or to accept advice on energy efficiency. We can only suggest you do enter into serious discussions about an affordable payment plan after taking advice from a debt adviser, such as Citizens Advice.

Q. For 20 years we have invested through HSBC’s Wealth Strategic Solutions Fund. HSBC is withdrawing the advice element of this service, so will no longer advise on the suitability of our existing investment strategy, provide CGT [Capital Gains Tax] management or manage ISA subscriptions. We need to find another home for our money.CJ, Kent.

A. Philippa Gee of Philippa Gee Wealth Management responds: “There are many options available to you at this point, so it is worth taking time to find the right solution. First, you could simply use a similar service from another discretionary wealth manager, of which there are plenty. You would need to check details such as their charges and risk management. An alternative approach is to manage the money yourself, though you would need to decide how the money is invested, monitored and what support can be provided to produce the necessary tax documentation. The other option is to find someone who is more an overall financial adviser and can manage the wealth with you.

Q. I made a booking with Britanny Ferries for a week in France, including ferry and a property. The whole process was completed online with a confirmation received at the time. This was followed up by an email response, again confirming the booking. However, this message included the following sentence: “Breakage deposit payable on arrival: €150 in cash and £150 by sterling cheque”. This condition was not previously referred to and I cannot believe this is appropriate. PL, Somerset.

A. Brittany Ferries says its terms and conditions explicitly state that “all gites and cottages [require] a deposit between €80 and €900 [which] is payable in cash on arrival”.

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

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