Questions of Cash: October 2015

Q. I rented a villa in Fuengirola in Spain in June this year, paying a deposit of €150 (£111).  On the morning of our departure a representative from the rental company, Global Rentals, was supposed to come and check everything was ok and return our deposit.  We waited as long as we could before leaving to catch our plane.  We took the keys with us.  Global Rentals told us to post the keys back to them and they would return our deposit on return of the keys.  I supplied them with my bank details, but I have still not received the deposit back.  AC, Merseyside.

A. You contacted us in early August and it took us until late September to get this resolved. Our initial emails to Global Rentals went unanswered, as were our phone calls.  We did receive an email in mid August to explain that the agency was very busy and would respond to us.  In mid September, the agency said it had not received your bank details and so could not process the refund.  We supplied these – you tell us they had previously been sent to the agency – and the full refund was then made.

Q. Scottish Power wrote to me in August of 2012 stating that my primary cost per unit of electricity with them would be 19.161 pence per kWh, with a threshold of 225 kWh, with a secondary unit rate of 9.687 pence per kWh. These prices were to remain fixed until the end of October 2013. On this basis, I switched my electricity supply contract to Scottish Power in September 2012, moving from E.ON. However, Scottish Power charged me 21.153 pence for primary units and 11.12 for secondary units in the period until the end of October 2013. Since then I have complained repeatedly to Scottish Power. As Scottish Power failed to respond I complained to the Ombudsman, which set out agreed settlement terms. In November last year, Scottish Power wrote to me confirming that it would implement these terms. In January this year, I wrote to Scottish Power explaining that it had failed to implement these terms, at a cost to me of £116.23. In addition, after October 2013 Scottish Power dropped its system of charging for primary and secondary units, moving to a flat rate for all units consumer – but did this without giving me advance notice. This cost me a further £328.38 until the end of last year. The only response I have had from Scottish Power has been to say that my complaint is being dealt with. I complained again to the Ombudsman, who declined to be further involved. I have now had a letter and a visit from Scottish Power’s debt collectors seeking to recover £311.28 – without any reference to setting this against the £444.61 that Scottish Power owes me. The debt collector now wants access to fit a prepayment meter. ET, Suffolk.

A. Scottish Power responded: “We have contacted  [the reader] and apologised for the delay in resolving this matter and for the inconvenience caused.  The account has been fully investigated and the account has been updated giving a balance of £295.36. By way of an apology we have credited this with £100 goodwill bringing the balance to £195.36.” Since that account balance was calculated, additional energy charges have accumulated, bringing the figure up to £343.69. Scottish Power justifies its replacement of the agreed charges in October 2013 with a new charging system. Its spokeswoman explains: “As a  replacement tariff had not been agreed with [the reader] this meant the account automatically reverted to our standard prices.”

A. When I make electronic payments in euro via my BankLine euro account with NatWest, I cannot pay my charges and the recipient’s charges myself.  An error message tells me ‘charges must be shared’.  I then add something on to the payment which I guess may cover the recipient’s charges.  It is only a guess, though.  I would prefer it if I could pay the exact charge.  I have asked my relationship manager about this.  He tells me sharing charges is a ‘legal requirement’.  The EU regulation is actually that “Banks in EU countries which do not use the euro must also charge the same fees for transactions in the EU as they would for a domestic transfer, if the payment or transfer is made in euros.”   The way NatWest arranges electronic euro transfers is surely its way of interpreting this ruling and could be arranged differently.  IM, Berkshire.

A. A spokesman for RBS says: “The issue the customer has raised relates to the application of international payment charges.  An international payment will attract both sender and beneficiary bank charges. The customer’s issue is that he wishes to pay both charges, but the bank’s system will only allow the sharing of charges – i.e. the customer pays their bank charges for sending the payment and the beneficiary pays their bank’s charges for receiving the payment.  The reason why the bank’s system is set up in this way is to ensure the bank’s compliance with the Payment Services Directive (PSD) and best practice guidance issued by the European Payments Council for cross border payments. The PSD and best practice guidance requires payment charges to be shared when the payment is in a European currency – i.e. euro – and is being sent to a country covered by PSD and there is no currency conversion – i.e the payment is sent in euro and received in euro.  The customer could opt to make a payment involving a currency conversion – e.g. debit GBP / send EUR – and pay both their bank’s charges for sending the payment and the beneficiary’s bank’s charges for receiving the payment. However, this is not an optimal solution as the customer would incur currency exchange costs.  Alternatively, the customer could continue to calculate the approximate beneficiary charges and add this amount to the payment. As beneficiary banks will all have their own charging scales we cannot confirm these.”

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