Questions of Cash – October 2013

Q.  My husband and I recently bought a mobile phone from CeX in Castleford, which sells reconditioned mobile phones. My husband previously had a Blackberry, which he had from new and found to be very reliable.  He has a SIM only contract and decided that a purchase of a reconditioned Blackberry Bold phone would suit him well.  It cost £92 and come with a warranty.  Unfortunately within a month of having the phone it started not to hold its charge.  The staff were helpful and downloaded something which they said could resolve the problem.  This did not work, so we were advised it would need a new battery which we duly bought for an extra £10.  After this did not work, the phone was returned to the shop and sent off for repair.    The repairer advised that the fault was due to water damage and the manager told us this was not covered by warranty and we were not entitled to a replacement or refund.  During the time we had the phone it was not exposed to water.  If it had been we would have fully accepted the decision – in fact we would not have returned it to the shop.  The shop manager advised that water damage could be as a result of over-heating or condensation in a back pocket.  But the phone was always kept in a hard-backed protective case in a bag. LB, Castleford.


A.  It is unclear how the phone became water damaged, or why it ceased to work at the time it did.  CeX says water damage normally causes immediate problems, not after such a long delay.  It also stresses that all items sold in any of its chain of shops is fully tested when bought to ensure they work.  Cex says that while it sells items with a warranty, this does not cover accidental damage, including from water penetration, and that this is normal practice in the electrical retailing sector.  Its brand and communications manager, Jonathan Cronin, adds: “The phone worked as expected for a month. It then developed a fault a month after purchase and was sent off for repair by CeX.

An independent company we use for repairs examined the phone. The engineer with over 13 years experience stated that the fault was caused by water damage and not some latent issue in the handset. As a gesture of goodwill, CeX is happy to refund the handset and the additional battery purchased.” CeX accepts, however, that its staff should have tested your phone with another battery rather than suggest you purchase a new battery. You have now been refunded with the £102.


Q.  I am in dispute with UBS regarding a mortgage. I have submitted evidence to the Financial Ombudsman Service that the Treating Customer Fairly rules have been breached.  But the Ombudsman has failed to understand the case.  CA, Manchester.


A.  The Financial Ombudsman has issued a final decision and the internal processes have been exhausted.  You can ask the Ombudsman’s independent assessor to review whether the service provided was appropriate, but her remit does not deal with whether the Ombudsman’s decision was correct.  Your only avenues now are to accept that you have lost, or else to take the matter to court – with all the cost and uncertainty involved.  Our strong advice to readers is to bring a problem to us prior to taking it to the Ombudsman.  If we are unable to obtain a satisfactory resolution readers can still take the matter to the Ombudsman.  Once the Ombudsman rules in favour of a financial service provider, that company is very unlikely to be open to representations from us.


Q. I read with interest Questions of Cash 24 August, where you reported on a car hire company in Spain that charged the reader’s sterling bank account for a euro deposit.  This lost the reader more than £40 through currency charges by the time the deposit was refunded.  You reported the reader’s bank as saying that the car hire company had failed to follow “usual practice” of obtaining authorisation for the deposit, reserving the funds, but not processing a payment unless the car was damaged during the hire.  By coincidence, I had the same experience in August with the same car hire company.  I was told very clearly on booking through an online intermediary that the car hire company would require a security deposit to be held in reserve, but that no money would be taken from my account if the car was returned undamaged.  Yet my sterling account was debited and when the deposit was returned, the amount was £10.64 less.  It is clear that your other reader’s experience was not a one-off.  WB, by email.


Q.  I read the letter in Questions of Cash on 24 August about problems with a Spanish car hire deposit with interest.  I suffered the same experience in July when I travelled to Alicante and hired a car.  As a result, I lost £34.78.  I booked with a different car hire company that I have used on many occasions. I have never before had to pay a deposit – each time a payment was authorised, but not processed   HB, by email.


A.  After our reader contacted us in August about his experience with Marbesol, the reader’s bank, the Co-operative, repaid the loss of £41.01 in full.  We were unable to obtain a response from the car hire company Marbesol, despite repeated attempts at doing so.  It would be nice to think that the publicity we gave to this problem caused a change of approach by car hire companies in Spain.  What we can say with certainty is that in both these latest cases the problems were resolved without our intervention.  Both car hire companies immediately repaid the losses in full when the failures were pointed out to them by the readers WB and HB before we had a chance to be involved.  However, this is clearly an occurrence that needs to be watched out for and we caution readers accordingly.

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