Questions of Cash: June 2014

Q. My mother is widowed and 83. She has suffered stress over the last year after deciding to move from her marital four bedroom house to something more manageable. She was persuaded by McCarthy and Stone’s marketing of a stress free move and chose their package,where they sold her property and arranged the move.  She decided on Sussex as her new location to be near one of her sons.  She now has a second floor flat, where completion was delayed, the lift frequently fails and a water leak into her apartment caused her to move out while repairs were made.  The worst problem is that her oven is unusable.  She had visited several McCarthy and Stone properties and looked at their brochure material.  In all the properties and brochures she only ever saw eye level ovens.  The specifications for her flat only had a vertical plan and at no point was she informed that the oven would be at low level. It was only when she received the keys, in August last year – after the move was completed – that she found that she had a low level oven.  She immediately informed the McCarthy and Stone representative that she was unhappy with the oven position as she cannot kneel or bend down easily and was assured that it would be sorted out.  The kitchen is the only area in the flat that does not have disabled access.  McCarthy and Stone insist they will charge £1,200 to sort his out. My mum is now really fed up and has seriously considered selling the flat.  CM, France.

A. The problem has been resolved to the complete satisfaction of your mother. McCarthy and Stone state: “We value greatly our consistently high level of customer satisfaction and, having had the homeowner’s concerns brought to our attention, were keen to resolve the issue quickly.  We accept that our marketing literature could have been clearer regarding the height of the oven and, as a result, we have been happy to make a contribution to the subsequent alteration costs.”   You have forwarded to us correspondence you have received directly from McCarthy and Stone, which provides more detail of the settlement. “I can accept that there may have been an assumption by your mother about the height of her oven, despite the assurances from the sales consultant that she believed she had adequately explained the kitchen layout,” says the company’s representative.  “We have learned from this and we now have a procedure whereby we show detailed kitchen plans when a purchaser is considering buying ‘off plan’ to avoid any risk of misunderstanding about the design of the kitchen or the positioning of appliances.  We previously had plans prepared to make alterations to your mother’s kitchen to accommodate her oven at mid-height at a cost of £1,200.  Although I understand she has chosen to have alterations carried out by another contractor, we would be happy to make a contribution of £1,200 to your mother as a gesture of goill.”  You tell us that your mother has been happy to accept this proposal.

Q. My wife and I have had emails since the days of floppy disks and dial-up internet.  It was operated by Yahoo on behalf of BT.  After we moved our telephone and broadband to the Post Office we were still able to access our email via Yahoo.  Last August BT emailed us saying it was ending support for Talk21. To keep our email accounts open we would have to move to BT Broadband, or pay £1.60 a month for BT Premium Mail.  I decided to pay to ensure that I remained in touch with my contacts.  The direct debit arrangement was confirmed a few days later, but the email closure date came and went and I was still on Yahoo and not Premium Mail.  I rang BT’s technical support, which assured me that the change had taken place.  But nothing changed and I am still on via Yahoo.  My wife has remained on Talk21, but she has had another email in April threatening the account will be closed down.  NL, Bristol.

A. A spokesman for BT responds: “BT Premium Mail will be on Yahoo until we complete the move of our email base over to BT Mail. We’re closing the email base down slowly, but [the reader’s] wife’s email address will be closed if it’s not converted to Premium Mail, or linked to a BT broadband account.We have updated our policy after customer feedback following our initial communications about the closure in August. We now offer customers BT Premium Mail free for 12 months, after which if they choose not or link it to a BT broadband account it will be closed. We are also offering customers who have previously replied to us, free Premium Mail.” BT is reimbursing you for your costs so far and will transfer you free of charge to Premium Mail for 12 months.

Q. During last winter’s storms, the street lights went out. We ordered five small lanterns for £93.85 through Amazon to provide some outside light. One was dispatched on 14 February and I received it. Amazon charged for this, but said there would be a delay with the other four and the delivery date would be between 6 March and 15 April. I have now been told the lanterns are no longer available through the agreed supplier and I have been asked to transfer the order to another supplier for different lanterns at twice the price.  I am hopping mad.  I have been left with a single lantern that I cannot match with others and the return period has expired.  SM, Wales.

A. Amazon apologises.  It has made a full refund for the supplied lantern and cancelled the balance of the order.  A spokeswoman explains: “We have… apologised that we weren’t able to provide the other items. We had hoped to be able to source them but, unfortunately, our supplier informed us that the item was no longer available.”

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