Questions of Cash: January 2014

Q.  I am trying to obtain an up-to-date bill from Scottish Power.  I have an online account, but for over a month the website has displayed a ‘temporary’ problem preventing me accessing my account.  I have made three requests for a bill, left messages on Scottish Power’s Facebook page and unsuccessfully tried countless times to phone.  Emails receive the automated response that I will be contacted within five days, but they have not responded.  I have sent a letter of complaint, but there was no reply.  I am single, work long hours, with gas central heating.  I use a shower rather than a bath and live in a small terraced house where only two rooms are heated regularly. I pay by direct debit, but I believe I am in credit, as the amount taken from my account – £145 a month – seems far too high. I am interested in switching provider, but I want to be refunded whatever is owed to me.  JM, Birmingham.


A.  Scottish Power confirms you have overpaid your account and apologises for your difficulties in contacting the company.  Its spokeswoman says: “The issue with [the reader’s] online account seems to have been caused by an error with her email address.  This has now been corrected and the password has been reset.  There is a credit balance on [the reader’s] account of £461.18.  We have arranged for a full refund and also a goodwill payment of £50 for the delay in responding to her enquiry.  [The reader’s] gas consumption seems to be quite high [so we have offered] some energy efficiency advice, [but] this was declined.”  You should now be in a position to compare energy costs from various suppliers.  It would be sensible to also obtain energy efficiency advice.

Q.  We adopted a Jack Russell terrier dog, Joss, in 2005.  In 2006 it was diagnosed with Addison’s disease.  We paid vet bills of £2,000 and took out pet insurance with Sainsbury’s Finance, which excluded cover for treatment related to Addison’s disease.  In 2008, she was again ill and as the illness was not connected with Addison’s, the insurance policy covered the costs of treatment.  After that, the monthly premium rose from under £16 and by the end of 2012 it was £57.69.  I complained in 2011 at the cost and was given £30 in Sainbsury’s shopping vouchers, but the premiums continued to rise.  In July 2013, Joss was again taken ill.  Our vets diagnosed a renal problem and put her on a drip for three days.  This cost us £510.70.  The vet said the illness was nothing to do with Addison’s.  But Sainsbury’s has not met our claim.  Initially Sainsbury’s said this was because it had contacted our vet, who did not respond, and so Sainsbury’s closed the claim.  I spoke to the vet who said they had not been contacted by Sainsbury’s.  Then in October we were told the claim had been rejected as the illness was “the same as an illness or injury that showed clinical signs before your pet’s cover started”.  We have appealed and the vet supports our appeal.  We have been told it could take three months for the appeal to be decided and our policy is now up for renewal.  I have asked Sainsbury’s why we should renew the policy in these circumstances, but they have not replied.  PS, Buckinghamshire.


A.  Sainsbury’s Bank apologises.  Its spokeswoman explains: “We initially turned down [the reader’s] claim as Addison’s can be a condition linked to renal disease, which Joss had previously suffered, thereby making it a pre-existing condition. We did however request further information from the vet so that we could investigate the matter further and confirm if the two aliments were connected or not, so that we could process the claim. Unfortunately it turns out that the vet never received our request and it would also appear that we did have further information available to us from previous file notes. This resulted in the delay in settlement. We have now paid the claim and are very sorry that we did not pay it sooner. We are committed to the very highest levels of customer service and in this case we have fallen short. As well as our very best wishes, we have sent [the reader] a cheque for £80 for his family’s distress and inconvenience.”


Q.  I put my car up for sale in Auto Trader.  It should have been listed as a Volkswagen Golf V5, but instead the website automatically generated a listing for a Golf Sport TDI DPF Diesel.  I did not choose this.  When this was published, I requested a correction, but was told this was impossible.  When I repeated the request, there was no response.  Auto Trader is in breach of its contract with me, as the description was incorrect.  It has acknowledged poor customer service and refunded the advertising fee of £56 and also offered a £50 goodwill payment, but the car sold for £500 below its market value, so this is not adequate.  MA, by email.


A.  Auto Trader rejects your argument.  A spokesman says:  “When a customer places an advert, the information they enter will automatically bring up details of the vehicle. Sometimes the details we hold may differ slightly, so the customer has the option to manually select a variant for their vehicle.  In this instance, our records indicate that the customer selected a 2.0 Sport TDI DPF 5dr Diesel Hatchback, rather than the 2.0 GT Sport TDI 170 DPF 5dr Diesel Hatchback.  That meant the [information] included in the advert text was incorrect.  However, our team failed to respond to [the reader’s] complaint, or identify what had happened, quickly enough.  When the issue was identified, a full refund for the advert was offered, plus an additional amount as a gesture of goodwill.  [The reader] chose to decline this. As a result of this complaint, our team has been re-trained to ensure that customer inquiries are dealt to the speed and standard expected.”



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