Questions of Cash – September 2013

Q.  I spoke to a Three representative on 30 August about taking on a contract for two iPhone 5s – one for myself and a second for my daughter, costing £63 a month.  I was assured there was good signal coverage in my area.  The phones arrived and then I found we had no signal.  The wifi works so we are able to receive emails, but we are unable to make or receive phone calls or texts.  I phoned Three’s customer services and was advised to wait 24 hours as there was probably a delay in the PAC code activation, transferring our phone numbers from previous operators. We carried our phones around for the day expecting them to begin working, but they did not.  I phoned Three again and technical support conducted tests on the two phones.  We were assured there was problem with the phones, or with mobile signal coverage.  The next day I was out driving and a load of delayed messages came through – but when I tried to respond I was unable to as there was no signal coverage.  When I phoned again I was advised by technical support that engineering work on our local mast was taking place that would be completed by the Saturday night.  It is now after that and I still do not have coverage.  And I have now been told that the repairs could take another 28 days to be completed.  We have had our phones for over a week without being able to use them.  I am not happy at all.  Surely 3 cannot keep us tied into a contract when they have failed to offer a service which I had been assured was good by one of their sales team? FR, High Peak, Derbyshire.


A. Three admits it has been having “a few service issues in the area where the customer lives”.  Its spokesman explains: “We’ve had one mast down… so this has led to poor coverage in an area where we’d normally expect a good service.”  Although Three says this was a temporary problem that should now be resolved, it has agreed to cancel the contract and make a full refund.  You are happy with this solution and have returned the two phones.  When taking out a new contract it is worth using the Ofcom website – – to check the strength and reliability of mobile phone signal coverage in your area.


Q.  I paid in advance for a delivery service, using two different delivery companies, Anyvan and Shiply.  But when I tried to book their services, all their drivers – I contacted at least seven – were booked for a week in advance.  As a result I missed out on the opportunity to buy a lovely Laura Ashley sofa that had to be collected the next day.  The two companies required me to pay a deposit before I could even search for a van through their websites.  They have taken my money and now I cannot get the service.  VB, London.


A.  Our repeated enquiries to Shiply were not answered.  Anyvan insists it did nothing wrong.  It says the service you bought was for a driver to be booked on a ‘flexible’ basis, but you instead sought a driver for the next day.  A driver on demand service is more expensive than the option you paid for.  Anyvan has issued you with a voucher for future use of its service.  We requested that it instead make a refund, but it declined this on the basis that it argues that it has done nothing wrong.  We took the matter up with Barclays, which issued the Visa card with which you paid.  It has agreed to refund you the £15.40 you paid the two delivery services.


Q.  I have had innumerable problems with Cotswold District Council regarding my claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit.  I have been treated badly by staff, given wrong information and the council has contravened guidelines on benefit processing.  I am in credit with the council on my council tax bill by about £1,000.  The council claimed it had overpaid the benefits and recovered this automatically from amounts that were owed to me.  But I won my appeal, so the council owes me the money.  I have phoned the council to obtain this, but they denied that I am in credit with them.  A council manager has now spoken to my husband, agreed that the account is now in credit, but refuses to make a payment to me.  Instead, the council is taking the amount from arrears of council tax due from 2009.  The council took us to court at that time and the court made an attachment of earnings order.  According to the benefits guidelines, as this is for a separate time period the repayment of this old debt cannot be taken from the benefit now owed to me.  Councils are not allowed to recover old debts in this way.  VC, Cirencester.

A.  Cotswold District Council disputes your version of events, but says it “cannot provide specific details” to us, presumably for data protection reasons.  The spokesman adds that it is “confident that all officers involved in this case have acted with professionalism and respect towards the customer”.  He adds that a magistrate’s court cannot make an attachment of earnings order.  Where a council tax liability is outstanding the council can apply to court for a liability order giving a council additional recovery powers, which include an attachment of earnings.  “It is the council’s decision as to which recovery powers are most appropriate in an individual case and the magistrates have no jurisdiction over which method of recovery we might use, the payment arrangements, or what happens regarding credits of council tax benefit.”  It says that it operates in accordance with a formal complaints procedure, but you have not exhausted either the internal procedure, nor taken the matter to the local government ombudsman (see  We suggest you use these avenues of appeal.

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