Questions of Cash – February 2016

Q. I have a bank account with Banco Santander in Spain, which I want to close.  I was initially told that I could only close the account by attending the branch in person.  I have no intention of travelling to Spain just to close a bank account.  In the meantime, account fees and interest caused the account to be overdrawn.  Two and a half years ago, I spoke to the bank branch in Spain on the phone, again asking them to close the account. They told me I needed to send a written request to close the account. I did so immediately in mid 2013, but never received a reply.   Last year I found the account was still open, despite me not having used it for several years.  By then there was quite a large negative balance on the account, which I arranged for someone to clear on my behalf by going into the branch.  I again wrote to close the account and again there was no reply.  In January I phoned once more and was told that I had to go into the branch in person to close the account and there are no exceptions to this rule.  I then filed a complaint, but did not receive a response.  I have now phoned the bank again and the operative told me the bank’s records show my complaint has been resolved – which is untrue.  I was also told once more that I have to go into the branch to close the account.  NL, by email.

A. You were repeatedly misinformed.  “It is not necessary to visit the branch to close the account,” says a spokeswoman for Santander España.  “A written request is acceptable, but the request must be signed by the holder of the account, and the signature validated by a public authority or by another financial institution. A customer service representative has contacted [the reader] with specific instructions on how he can carry out the closure without visiting the branch.”

Q. My husband took out a mobile phone upgrade at Carphone Warehouse’s shop in Huntingdon last December.  He accidentally picked the wrong contract at a cost of £54.99 per month. He only realised once he got home that he did not need 10GB of data a month and would be paying far too much. I had a live chat on the website of EE, the contract providers, who assured us that my husband could change his contract, but it would be Carphone Warehouse who would have to do this for him, not EE.  When we went to see Carphone Warehouse they said it had to be EE that changed the contract.  I was then told by the EE call centre that there was nothing EE or Carphone Warehouse could do, due to a contract arrangement between themselves. EE told me that if we had purchased the phone direct from them we could have changed the plan.  CY, St Neots.

A. We contacted Carphone Warehouse, which has arranged with EE for your husband to change to a more appropriate, lower cost, contract.

Q. According to easyJet’s website, there is a surcharge for paying by credit card, but not by debit card.  However, I was recently charged for paying by HSBC Visa debit card.  I wrote to easyJet to ask why, but got no reply.  DH, Kent.

A. EasyJet distinguishes between debit and credit cards via tables provided by banks, but it says these tables sometimes contain mistakes.  In this instance, the table incorrectly suggested your card was a credit card.  You have been repaid the surcharge of £2.08.

Q. About 18 months ago I transferred to Co-op Energy as it appeared to offer a good deal.  I agreed a monthly direct debit of £70 which proved to be too high and I built-up a credit balance of £350.   Co-op Energy agreed to refund £300 and reduce my monthly direct debit to £50.  I received a statement saying that Co-op Energy had made the repayment, but I have still not received this.  I have now spent over four months waiting for the repayment and it seems that my only solution is to take the matter to the Small Claims Court.  CB, Suffolk.

A. This one confused us for a while, with Co-op Energy insisting it had made the repayment, while you insisted it had not.  Moreover, you forwarded to us an email from Co-op Energy dated last December which appeared to support your case as it referred to a “£300 goodwill gesture” being extracted from your account, when it should have been credited to it.  Despite this, Co-op Energy continued to state the repayment had been made, while you said it had not.  We then asked Co-op Energy for the exact date the payment was made – 18 August it said – and we requested you again check your bank statement.  There it appeared.  You apologise and believe you may have previously checked the wrong bank account.

Q. Royal Mail do a wonderful service of first day covers, special stamps etc. for collectors, setting-up an account, into which you pay money and it sends you all the first day covers, etc.  When the balance runs down, the customer phones to top this up.  However, I have been phoning its number –  03457 641641 – and no one answers.  I have tried for over two hours.  I have emailed, but got no reply.  Can you please help us – we have collected first day covers since our son was born in 1996 and we don’t want to give this up just because a phone system doesn’t seem to work!  VR, London.

A. Royal Mail says the phone number you used was correct, but as a result of a new stamps issue call volumes were very high.  Within two hours of us raising your problem with Royal Mail it contacted you directly to renew your account.

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