Questions of Cash – July 2013

Q.  My daughter is a serial texter and I went to great lengths to find a mobile contract to suit her needs.  I took out a contract in my name with T-Mobile, which I renewed in January with a new Windows phone for a pay monthly charge of £30, including an unlimited text bundle.  The contract clearly shows this.  But since January, T-Mobile has charged me £150 a month.  I only noticed this two weeks ago and phoned T-Mobile, which said it would look into it, but I have heard nothing since.  They mentioned they would credit the T-Mobile account, but I don’t want a credit, I want the money refunded.  LT, London.
A.  The full credit balance will be repaid to your account by EE – the new name of the merged T-Mobile and Orange businesses.  This was always the intention, but the account had to show a credit balance before the refund could be processed.  EE apologises for the “administrative error”.  We understand the problem came to light when you sought to release some equity from your house and your application was rejected because you inadvertently understated your monthly outgoings – because of the cost of the charges for your daughter’s phone.  As a result you had to take out a more expensive bank loan instead.  We pointed this out to EE and requested they make a goodwill payment to address this.  In response it will credit you with one month’s free subscription.  This fails to compensate you for the loss incurred, but is apparently the most that EE is willing to provide.  If you are unhappy with this – and we understand why you would be – you can complain to the Communication and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme, CISAS, of which EE is a member.  (Details are available at  This is one of two ombudsmen type schemes for the communications industry.


Q.  On 2 July last year, my 88 year old mother-in-law signed-up for BT’s ‘Unlimited Anytime Plan’ for 12 months at a cost of £16.90 a month.  Following this she received the message ‘Thanks for choosing BT for your phone service again’. But within six months the cost of the plan was raised to £18.45 per month. Despite calls to BT explaining that the contract still had six months to run, no satisfactory explanation has been given as to why BT felt able to unilaterally raise the monthly charge.  RG, Bristol.


A.  BT argues that the terms and conditions of its supply contract allow it to do this.  It took several months of nagging for us to get an explanation from BT, but eventually its spokesman told us: “Some phone and broadband prices were increased on January 5, 2013.  We notified customers about the changes in letters with bills and very clearly over two pages of our Update magazine, which is distributed with bills. Additionally, we published details on our website and sent e-bill alerts to customers who have paper-free billing. If we make a change to the price or the terms and conditions of a service which is to your material disadvantage, then generally you do not have to pay a charge if you decide to end that service early. However, once we have told you about such a change, you must let us know that you want to end that service within 10 days.”  If you are unhappy about BT’s response your mother-in-law can complain to the ombudsman scheme to which BT belongs.  This used to be called Otelo, but recently changed its name to Ombudsman Services: Communications.  Its website is


Q.  I recently moved into a rented flat with a type of electricity meter that is, as far as I am aware, only supported by Scottish Power. I signed-up on 27 May – with difficulty – and was given very little information on the cost of the service.  Since then no information has arrived in the post, other than confirmation of direct debit payment.  I have repeatedly phoned and emailed requesting details on the cost of my service, whether I have alternatives available to me and whether I can change the meter.  Can you find out the cost of my electricity?  MD, Glasgow.


A.  Scottish Power apologises for the poor service you have received.  You are correct in believing that your meter is, at the moment, only supported by Scottish Power.  It is called the Comfort Plus White Meter, which has its own tariff.  You can only transfer supplier by changing to a standard meter, which would require your landlord’s consent.  Following our contact with Scottish Power, it has now provided you with comprehensive information on its tariffs and you have accepted its fixed price option.  Scottish Power has credited your account with £75 as a goodwill gesture.


Q.  Five years ago I received a tax demand for £42,000, instead of the usual £125 reimbursement.  Apparently items that HMRC should have been subtracting were added in!  HMRC promised to put it right.  The next year I had a demand for £12,000.  Problems got worse after my husband died in 2011.  I have had to pay an accountant £675 to sort out the problems.   My accountant tells me things are getting sorted out, but they don’t seem to be.  LR, London.


A.  We contacted HMRC, which has not responded to us – as is sometimes the case, we assume for reasons of client confidentiality – but it has written to you, stating that it is doing so following up our complaint on your behalf.  In its letter it states that your late husband was due a tax refund of £423.91, which it will refund to you once you have signed and returned the form R27, claiming a refund due for someone who has died.  HMRC will also send you £50 as a goodwill payment in recognition of its failings in the way it handled your enquiries.  We resolved a problem that was apparently beyond your accountant – you might suggest they now refund their fees.

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