Questions of Cash – March 2016

Q. I received a new Nationwide credit card in September 2015. I had not used it for a very long time, so I cancelled it on 5 October and cancelled my direct debit. I destroyed my card and my partner did the same with his.  On 30 October I received a notice that as my direct debit had been cancelled I would have to find another way to make payments.  That seemed irrelevant, so I ignored it.  On 14 January 2016, I received another letter noting that I had not made my credit card payment. I replied stating that my card had been cancelled and requested a statement as I did not understand how I could have a debt. I did not receive a reply to that or my subsequent 10 letters to Nationwide.  Instead I received default notices and a letter reducing my credit limit.  I do not hear on the telephone and I have pointed that out in every letter. Still, the telephone rang incessantly every day for a week.  Although I had not made a formal complaint, I had a letter on 2 February responding to my ‘complaint’ and offering to write-off the alleged debt and giving me £25 in compensation. I refused the offer, which is derisory given the problems I have had and the efforts I made to put them right.  Two days later, I had more threats of action, but still no reply to my concerns.  Unfortunately my partner had used the old card two days before it expired to make two small purchases in America. He thought he was using the Nationwide card for his own account. Had I been told that at the beginning when I first requested the information, I would have paid at once without hesitation.  LJ, Brecon.

A. Apparently the issue arose because your cancellation letter could not be verified as containing your signature, so your account was not closed. The problem was multiplied by Nationwide’s failure to log your hearing problem and additional failure to respond to your repeated correspondence.  Your account has now been closed and the balance written-off.  A spokeswoman for Nationwide says: “Having reviewed the case, while [the] correct procedure was followed to verify his identity, we failed to log details about [the reader’s] impaired hearing and as a result delayed the closure of his account.”  Nationwide has written to you to apologise and offer compensation of £150, which you have accepted.

Q. I rented a car from Hertz while on holiday in South Africa in January. I made the booking in June last year, paying the full rental charge of £520 on my Barclaycard.  But my January statement showed that Hertz had charged me an extra 12,681.25 Rand, which with the non-sterling transaction fee came to £570.04. I phoned Hertz, which told me this was a deposit that would be repaid into my account. I complained that I had not been informed of this and requested the costs of £37.16 for the currency conversion costs and an adverse change in the exchange rate.  Hertz has refused to pay this or accept that I was not informed.  MP, Yorkshire.

A. This is an example of the need to carefully read terms and conditions of contracts – which in this instance seem to us could have been clearer. A spokeswoman for Hertz says: “Due to the fact that a number of authorisations on credit cards expire, we were experiencing losses resulting from unpaid rentals and related charges in South Africa. As a result, the policy on the rental deposit was changed and the information on both the website and the rental agreement was amended accordingly.  On Hertz’s specific terms and conditions for car rental services in South Africa it is stated that: ‘A deposit for all credit card related rentals, is taken at time of rental for estimated rental charges, plus an additional deposit for extras including a fuel deposit and 50 per cent of the applicable excess.’  Additionally, the rental agreement signed by the customer specifies the different amounts included in the deposit and states the fact that banks can take up to 21 days to refund the amount.”  Other readers are now warned.

Q. I have been a Vodafone customer for several years, using its pay as you go service. I needed a new handset, so bought a Smart 4 Turbo from its website on 8 February for £29.99.  When the handset arrived it would not work, apparently because there was a problem with the SIM card.  A replacement SIM card was sent to me, but the handset still did not work.  I was then told that I had to go a Vodafone store to get the handset checked, despite this being very inconvenient.  The store’s staff agreed the handset was faulty, but told me they were not allowed to replace the handset as it had not been purchased in store.  I then arranged through an online chat to send the phone back, but I was unable to use my old handset as its SIM card had been disabled.  The online order department told me it would arrange for a courier to collect the handset and I would be credited with the purchase cost.  But the courier did not turn up, I still cannot use my old handset and I have been held on the phone for as long as 40 minutes in my repeated calls to Vodafone.  I have now bought a new phone from EE, but I would still like a response from Vodafone, a refund for the faulty handset and a refund of the £9.27 credit on my PAYG account.  JM, Yorkshire.

A. Vodafone’s spokeswoman says: “We’re very sorry [the reader] had these problems and that we didn’t get them sorted out as quickly as we should have done.  We will refund the money she spent on the phone and the credit she placed on it.  We’ll also make a goodwill payment of £20 as an apology for the issues she’s had.”

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