Questions of Cash: November 2013

Q.  I have recently been contacted by a company called Stern Levenson, who claim they can trace a lost investment for me. They take a 25 per cent commission, which seems quite high. How do they know about my lost investment and is there a way of tracing it myself?  BS, Preston.


A.  Stern Levenson did not reply to our enquiry, so we made our own investigations.  You bought shares in three companies in 1987.  All three – Concorde Energy, Burnett & Hallamshire Holdings and Blue Arrow – used Lloyds Bank as their share registrars.  As the Lloyds’ share registrar business was sold-off as Equiniti we contacted Equiniti for information on the three companies.  Concorde Energy plc became Kelt Energy plc on 19 May, 1988.  It was acquired by a scheme of arrangement with Henkel Loctite Investments Ltd for cash on 6 July 1995.  Burnett & Hallamshire Holdings plc was renamed NSM plc on 19 April, 1988 and HMRC accepted on 5 April, 1998 that ordinary shares in the company were of negligible value.  Your only shares that could be of value are those that were issued by Blue Arrow plc, which became Manpower plc on 2 April, 1990 and which was acquired by Manpower Inc on 14 May, 1991.  We emailed you to ask how many shares you had in Blue Arrow so that we could make further enquiries about their value, but you did not reply.  However, Equiniti’s own enquiries suggest that Stern Levenson does not usually contact holders of unclaimed shares, but is more likely to be pursuing unclaimed assets that were part of a legacy in a deceased person’s estate, or other lost real estate.  We suggested that you make your enquiries as to whether any family members might have died and left you money, pointing out that this might provide an opportunity to claim the asset without paying the 25 per cent commission fee.  However, again you did not reply.  Unless your personal enquiries provide the explanation, it would seem that making contact with Stern Levenson to obtain the assets is worthwhile, not least as we understand that it normally acts in cases where the value of lost assets is reasonably significant.  Equiniti suggests that you speak to Stern Levenson, request information on the value of the lost assets and seek to negotiate a lower commission.

Q.  We have been Vodafone customers for nearly three years.  But Vodafone sent us the wrong new phone and has sent us a bill for £200, plus a £62 contract.  My husband ordered a black iPhone 5S 32 GB on 2 November. We have it on tape that he specified five times the black model, which customer services agreed to.  He needed a phone urgently as he was going in for surgery and required email access while in post operative recovery.  Instead he received a white iPhone 5S on 5 November.  We immediately phoned for a replacement. After 32 minutes on the phone, the line went dead.  On a second call, he was promised that someone would contact him about a replacement.  They didn’t.  I phoned again a few days later and I was told that the request for a replacement phone had not even been logged.  I was promised it would now be logged and the correct model would be with us in four days.  But the day before the replacement was due my husband had another call from a person at Vodafone, who said she had no idea that our enquiries were to request a replacement handset.  My husband then asked her to explain the procedure for returns, which she did, very briefly. When my husband asked her to repeat these, she said “I have said it once, and I cannot repeat”, and then hung up! I believe this is in complete breach of the seven day returns policy. I should have a right to return a device I did not order and I should have the right to be told when and how this return can be effected.  This is terrible service.  KF, London.


A.  Vodafone apologises.  A spokeswoman says: “We’re sorry the reader has had this experience, especially at such a stressful time.  We have spoken to her husband to apologise.  The unwanted phone is now back with us and although we offered to send a replacement, he has decided against this for the time being and has reverted to his old phone and price plan.  We have credited the account with £30 as a gesture of goodwill and we will review our processes to see what went wrong in this case. “


Q.  Several weeks ago, I made a purchase from the Wine Society, using a John Lewis Partnership MasterCard, as I had done many times previously. But on this occasion payment was refused, apparently on the grounds that this was an ‘unusual transaction’. To make matters worse, I was not told that a problem had arisen, which was embarrassing.  I wrote to the John Lewis Partnership twice, asking what constitutes an ‘unusual transaction’.  I also want to know whether my credit reference has been damaged by this event.  Unfortunately I have not had a reply. DC, London.

A.  Justin van der Pant, general manager operations for the John Lewis & Waitrose Partnership Card, says:  “John Lewis & Waitrose Partnership Card has rigorous standards in place to protect its customers. We always closely monitor transactions to help prevent fraud and if we feel it necessary, we may block payments and contact the customer immediately to clarify whether the transactions were genuine.  Unfortunately in this case we were unable to reach [the reader].   We can assure [the reader] that his credit rating has not been affected. We review all claims on a case by case basis. In recognition of the inconvenience caused by this particular incident we will, as a gesture of goodwill, send [the reader] some John Lewis vouchers.”  You now have £50 of vouchers to spend in John Lewis or Waitrose stores.

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