Questions of Cash – June 2016

Q. Several years ago I accepted Sky at face value as a provider of services. But I found my charges were hiked by 50 per cent without warning. It takes hours to try to speak to anyone at Sky to resolve problems.  I had agreed with Sky an entertainment and sports package for £26 per month. That agreement lasted a short while before my bank asked for my agreement for my direct debit to Sky to increase to £54 a month, without any change to the service. I contacted Sky, with difficulty, where the call handler agreed to credit my account so that it showed the correct monthly charge of £26. This lasted just one month, before the charge went back to more than £50. Sky has now sent me a threatening letter and instructed a firm of debt collectors to obtain money from me. What is more, Sky has stopped providing the programmes that it promised to provide for £26 a month.  JT, Wales.

A.  You have sent us the original letter, dated June 2013, from Sky which clearly shows that the charge for the upgraded service of ‘Entertainment Extra+ with Sports’ was £26 per month. Sky accepts that it sent you this letter and that it had agreed this price initially with you, but says this was a mistake. It adds that it believed that you had accepted that Sky had made a genuine error and that the correct price was £52 a month – and on this basis that the matter had been fully resolved. While it no longer has a recording of the phone conversation in which it claims you agreed to this, it points to the fact that you did not cancel the higher rate service and argue that you therefore, by implication, accepted the higher charge. Its spokeswoman says: “We apologise for the inconvenience caused to [the reader]. In September 2013, we reimbursed their account for the error made in the upgrade letter from June of that year. Once the new upgrade package and associated costs were fully explained to [the reader], he decided to remain on the higher package and was billed accordingly.” Sky will continue to demand the outstanding balance on your account and it has blocked your service until the payment is received.

Q.  I bought a Nissan Juke with my redundancy money 18 months ago and it was the first brand new car that I ever had. I have been really pleased with it. But there is a problem with the bumper, which Nissan says was caused by the dealer incorrectly fitting a sensor.  The warranty would only cover the repair if the defect was caused by a manufacturing defect – which it wasn’t. I had expected it to be a simple warranty issue to be resolved between the dealer I bought the car from, the dealer that I have taken the car back to and Nissan – but instead it has turned into a complete fiasco which is very stressful, especially as my son has become seriously ill. Can you sort it out for me? KS, by email.

A.  Nissan has replaced the bumper “as a goodwill gesture”.

Q. My daughter and her boyfriend have just moved out of a rented flat they shared with another girl at the end of their tenancy agreement. The agency is refusing to return the deposit paid by my daughter and her boyfriend because of the third tenant’s refusal to pay her share of a professional cleaning bill of £180. The flat was clean and tidy when my daughter left it and I don’t see why they are being billed such a large sum for cleaning. They need the money for a deposit on another flat and they agreed to pay their £120 share. They are currently homeless and sofa surfing at friends while the other girl has swanned off on holiday. Do they have any right to claim their deposit back leaving the agency to argue with the third tenant or do they have to wait until this issue is resolved?  SM, London.

A.  The tenancy contract was signed by your daughter and her boyfriend and they are responsible for leaving the flat in the condition specified in the contract. One option might have been for your daughter and her boyfriend to take a small claims court action against the third tenant. But a better option is to use persuasion – which, you tell us, has worked and the third tenant has now paid the outstanding cleaning costs.

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