Questions of Cash: May 2014

Q. I upgraded my mobile phone in January to an HTC One model and took out a new Vodafone contract. When I received my February bill I was shocked that it was £66. When I looked closely I noticed a charge of £6.37 +VAT for a phone number I did not recognise. Looking back over my account, I found that I had been paying for this number – at the lesser rate of £4.72 + VAT – as far back as the bills I could access online went.I phoned customer services and was told this was for a dongle. Apparently this had been sent to me on 27 September 2011 and I was first billed in October 2011. I did not receive the dongle and the operator accepted that it had never been activated or used. The dongle had been offered via a direct marketing call. I did not initiate the request, but felt it was something I would like to try out. This is why I did not query it when the dongle did not arrive. I asked to be refunded the money I had paid for the dongle over the two years and seven months, but was instead offered £20 compensation. I rejected this and was offered £40. After rejecting this, I was offered £60 as an ‘absolutely final offer’. I was not happy as this was less than I paid, but I accepted it as better than nothing. I was told this would be credited to my account on my February bill, which should then have been just £6.  I was therefore not worried that I only had £50 in my bank account on the due date for payment.  Instead I was charged £66.  The operator had got the date wrong for the credit to my account, which I was told would be processed in March instead.  I have since had the full bill taken from my account by direct debit in both March and April.  JF, Hampshire.

A. Vodafone accepts it made mistakes. A spokeswoman for Vodafone explains: “[The reader] agreed to a mobile broadband dongle at £5 per month on 26 September 2011. She didn’t contact us to say that the dongle had never arrived, so there would be no way for us to know this.  However, it’s clear that it has never been used.  On that basis, we will credit the amount she has paid over this period – £144 – plus the £10 she was charged by her bank when we failed to credit the £60 as we had promised.  We’ll also add a £20 credit to her account by way of apology for failing to do this.” Vodafone will therefore pay you a total of £174 –a lot better than the £60 it promised but failed to refund.

Q. I ordered a combined phone/broadband/TV package from BT Vision on 16 February. On 28 February an engineer arrived, but found a fault on the line and the broadband and TV could not be connected. He disconnected the phone line.  I was told I could not cancel my payment for the disconnected line as the job was not ‘closed out’.  A BT engineer arrived on 2 April, but said he had a job only for the broadband and so would not install the TV service.  He phoned his office and was told the TV arrangement had been cancelled because of an aerial upgrade issue.  This was untrue and the aerial was fine.  I was promised the TV connection would take place later and I would be phoned to arrange a new date.  This never happened.  When I phoned again to complain I was promised a rebate of £43.73 and a rearranged engineer visit for 14 April.  When this did not happen I rang BT and was told the engineer did not have the house number, had tried ringing, there was no reply and he went away.  The appointment details clearly had my correct address on them.  I am self-employed and have lost earnings taking time off for these appointments.  When I explained this to BT, it offered me £10 off my next bill.  I rejected this and have been told that compensation can only be offered on completion of the job.  JK, Berkshire.

A. BT agrees that the first installation failed because of a fault on your phone line. Its spokesman says the TV installation was not carried out “because of confusion” over your address. Your TV service has now been installed. The spokesman adds: “We have apologised for the poor customer service and agreed to give [the reader] £30 and credit him for two months’ broadband and TV. We have also cancelled his additional line and credited him with the cost from February 28.”

Q. My stepmother’s boiler was damaged after the electricity meter was changed. I have obtained a copy of the engineer’s worksheet which stated the damage to her boiler occurred after the meter change. The engineer told my stepmother that the damage would have been caused by a power surge. A local heating engineer has confirmed that this equipment is very sensitive and easily damaged by a power surge. Unfortunately he feels he cannot put this in writing as he fears repercussions as he is working in this field and Npower is such a large company. SA, Kent.

A. A spokeswoman for Npower says:  “The incident did occur after the meter was changed, however this was not the reason the boiler broke…. We are confident this was an existing issue with the boiler prior to the meter being exchanged.”  Although, at our suggestion, you obtained an engineer’s report describing the problem, this did not conclude that a power surge caused the problem with the boiler.  Without a report from a respected engineer that has a clear conclusion that a power surge damaged the boiler, it is difficult to see what more can be done.

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