Q. We purchased a laptop online on 1 January 2009 from Portable Universe. In October we experienced problems with the laptop screen and contacted the company. It issued a returns number and an address to send it. The computer was still operational – the screen flickered occassionally – and as we are teachers and use the laptop for work we decided to send it back in early December, near the end of term. On 8 December Portable Universe experienced a fire at its premises and all business ceased. When I called in early December to enquire about sending our faulty laptop back an answering service told us to email their support service. I emailed the company twice, but no one replied. The company did not start conducting business again until the first week of January, by when our warranty had expired. I sent the laptop back at the beginning of January explaining our situation and understood the warranty would be extended. We have now been been told the laptop will not be repaired under warranty, although the firm has had it for over four weeks. The only way to get our laptop back is to pay the £120 repair charge. Their staff have been unpleasant and condescending on the phone. BK, Leicester.
A. Portable Universe rejects your version of events, saying the laptop was only received by them on 18 January, despite issuing the returns authorisation on 9 October. It says that while there had been a fire, this only disrupted business for one day and did not affect customer returns. The company sales manager Peter Weller says he is “sorry if [the reader] regards our explanation as rude and condescending”. However, given the circumstances Portable Universe has agreed to repair the laptop free of charge as if it were still within the warranty period.
Q. We had a cash ISA and children’s ‘Kidzone’ savings account with the Bradford & Bingley, which paid competitive interest rates over many years. When I decided to check current interest rates I had difficulty because B&B had been taken over by Santander and I could not fine the rates displayed online. We visited our Santander branch to find that both accounts now pay a miserly 0.1 per cent interest. We immediately closed the children’s account and moved the ISA to a Santander account. Is there an obligation on banks to actively communicate to customers when interest rates on accounts become uncompetitive? GT, Barnard Castle.
A. Santander argues that it provides customers with transparent information on current interest rates via its website. In a statement, the bank said: “We can confirm that during the move of Bradford & Bingley accounts to Santander, a link from the Santander website allowed customers to view interest rate changes. Due to global market conditions, interest rates have been falling on savings. As rates can change frequently, we are unable to inform customers individually of changes. Therefore, we ask that customers check the rates on their savings regularly, via advertisements on our website, branch literature and national financial press.”