Q. You previously assisted me to obtain child tax credits for my three children (Questions of Cash, 8 June, 2013) after we had been unable to do so despite nearly three years of trying. Eventually, thanks to your intervention, HMRC got this right and paid us £2,800, though without any explanation for how the figure was arrived at. I phoned the tax office and was told “categorically” that the calculation was correct. We were told that the International Team had made their decision and closed the case. Not only that, but that even if they wanted to re-open the case, it would not be possible. I asked whether I should wait for a notification before spending the money, but I was told this was not necessary as our case was closed. But now they have got it wrong again! We have received a letter telling us that debt collectors have been instructed to collect an overpayment of £2,800. We phoned the tax office, who told us a letter asking for repayment had been sent out, but we never received this. We were told there were too few notes from the International Team to know exactly what had happened – other than the first amount had been entered “manually” and then in August a repayment authorisation had been made. We were told we could file a ‘dispute’, which we did, but it may take up to 17 weeks for a decision. In the mean time, a firm of debt collectors is seeking to recover the money, backed by the threat of costs. GI, Lincoln.
A. Like you, we believed that the matter was fully resolved last summer. However, we took the matter up again with HMRC. The background to this is that your family has lived at times abroad, so your claim had been dealt with by HMRC’s International Team until September 2012. Since then, the matter has been handled as a ‘business as usual’ claim. Somehow in this process of transition, the tax credits database incorrectly showed that you were overpaid £2,830.12. As a result of our latest intervention, HMRC has reviewed your records, accepted that you were not overpaid and your records have been corrected. In addition, HMRC is offering to make a redress payment to you of £100 and a further £10 for your costs. We also contacted the debt collection agency, DLC, asking them to stay its action against you while the matter was resolved. We did not obtain a response, but when you subsequently phoned DLC you were told that “someone” (which seems to mean us) had requested their action be put on hold. They told you they would not make any further efforts to collect the money while they await confirmation from HMRC that there is no debt to collect.
Q. I was very interested to read your report on the private lookalike websites that charge fees for services that are provided free by government bodies (Questions of Cash, 15 February). I recently needed to renew my driving licence at 70+. I opted to do this online using the website www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence-at-70. This claims to work “securely and quickly” and the use of gov.uk implied that all would be well. It mentions that “alternatively you can apply by post….. there is no fee required’. It does not mention that renewal online will sting you £29.99. Furthermore, part of the website promotes the use of the 70+ online option – again with no mention of the fee. GJ, Exeter.
A. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency assures us that there is no fee for online renewal of driving licences, including for the over70s, providing the web address is entered correctly. We are unable to explain how you apparently jumped from the official website to what appears to be a private website, which charged you a fee. A spokesman for DVLA says: “I can confirm that there is no fee charged for renewing the driving licence at 70 or over when it is done via GOV.UK. GOV.UK is the first stop for all government services and motorists should be aware that other websites may charge additional fees for providing checking services. The link your reader provides takes the person directly to GOV.UK if entered into the address bar of the internet browser. We would advise your readers to ensure they enter addresses given out in DVLA literature into the address bar at the top of their internet browser and not into a search engine to ensure they go directly to GOV.UK.”
Q. I have been charged £29.95 on my credit card account by Livedrive. I suspect this related to a subscription to their service that was part of a package included when I bought the computer a year earlier. But I have never used Livedrive, nor was there any communication from them about a renewal. I emailed Livedrive, but did not receive a response. I have been unable to trace a phone number for them. JS, by email.
A. Livedrive says that it is sorry that you were unaware of the renewal arrangements. It has offered to refund your charge. Robert Custons of Livedrive, a cloud storage system, adds: “When a customer purchases their account, they are given a website and a code to activate their product. If they do not activate the product we wouldn’t have their card details and therefore we wouldn’t be able to charge them to renew. When activating an account there is a mandatory page where we inform the user of the account length and cost before we ask for their card details. Once the customer creates the account they can check their renewal information at any time through our web portal and on the main dashboard page of our desktop software. Thirty days before the account renewal we send the customer an email reminding them of the upcoming renewal and information on how to contact support or close the account before it renews.”