Questions of Cash – February 2016

Q. You helped me last year (Questions of Cash, 12 September 2015), because my 91 year old father was receiving demands from a debt collector for £434.26 in respect of British Gas bills for a period when his house was unused and not consuming any gas or electricity.  You told me this was resolved and British Gas had also told me, categorically, it had written-off the debt.  But now a different firm of debt collectors is demanding £260.56.   AC, by email.

A. We are sorry this was not resolved when we assured you it was – after British Gas assured us the debt had been written-off.  A spokesman for British Gas says: “I’ve double checked on this and it looks like there was an issue with the debt collectors not properly reflecting the fact that we’d written off the debt. We’ve spoken to them again to reiterate this and they have assured us that they updated their records so this should all be cleared now.”  Hopefully your father will not be troubled again.

Q. I was fascinated to read (Questions of Cash, 12 December) about a reader who had been contacted with regard to a debt of another person with a similar name.  I have had the same experience.  I was first contacted by debt collection agency Transcom on behalf of eBay, and then by another debt collection agency Akinika, eBay itself, Paypal, Transcom again and then eBay again.  I have never used eBay, nor registered with it, nor with Paypal.  The debtor was someone with the same surname, but a different first name and a man (I am a woman).  I have never known anyone of that name and I have lived at my address, on my own, for more than 20 years.  KG, London.

A. We are told by eBay that the systems operated by it, Paypal and by the debt collection agencies it uses should have prevented this from happening.  It promises that you will not hear again from eBay or Paypal.  We also contacted Transcom, but it claimed that customer confidentiality issues prevented it from commenting.  Akinika is owned by Capita, which told us that it had arranged with eBay that it would provide an agreed response.

Q. I tried to buy a top-up for my dongle from 3 in November 2014, but these were no longer available.  I was under considerable stress at the time and did not understand what I was being sold.  As a result, I have a contract for £7 a month signed only by me, with no staff counter-signature.  In April last year I realised for the first time that I was paying two monthly direct debits: one for £7 and the other for £7.50 for a mobile phone which I have never had.  After contacting 3, it eventually agreed that it had mis-sold me an account and refunded me £57.49 of the £70 that I had paid them through a direct debit. The balance, £12 .51, was a cancellation fee for the account, which closed on 12 August last year.  Then on 1 September last year, two direct debits were taken from my bank account: again one for £7, the other for £7.50.  I reported the mistake to the shop, cancelled both direct debits and wrote and informed the complaints department at 3.  Since then I have received a monthly statement from 3 and on 10 January this year I received a statement saying that I now owe them £45 .04, plus £57.62 cancellation fee for an account I have never had, quoting an account number that was not mine.  I feel I am being bullied and I am already under stress from family commitments and ill health.  MJ, by email.

A. A spokesman for 3 responded:  “We apologise for the problems experienced by [the reader] and for the inconvenience caused. We have written to the customer and explained that we have cleared the outstanding balance of the unwanted account and also waived the termination fee.”

Q. I ordered a Samsung 4 tablet in black from Curry’s on 7 December in its Cardiff store.  As there were none in stock I placed an order and paid £100 cash in store and asked for a business receipt, which I put in the name of the person the gift was intended for. I was told the tablet should be delivered the following day.  The next day I was kept waiting ten minutes, to be told it was not there and would be delivered on the Friday.  Over the next week I travelled to the store another three times, on each occasion waiting ten minutes to be told it had not arrived.  On 15 December I was told the tablet had not actually been ordered and there were none in stock at the warehouse, so I could not order one.  I was offered a white tablet, or a refund, or to travel to the Bridgend store and collect one.  I opted for the refund, but then a staff member told me it would be difficult to process a refund as I had been given a business receipt, so the store manager would collect a tablet from Bridgend.  Eventually on 18 December I collected the tablet, but I had made six trips to the store and been kept waiting more than an hour in total.  Since then I have complained repeatedly, but got nowhere other than the promise of a £20 voucher.  HC, Wales

A. Curry’s spokeswoman responds: “Our customer service team has contacted [the reader] to apologise for the issues she has experienced and we are picking this up with the specific store in question. We have provided her with the voucher number and advised her on how to redeem it as well as giving her a direct line in case she has any further problems and we believe her to be happy with the resolution. As a retailer we take customer experiences very seriously and we will take measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

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