Questions of Cash: September 2014

Q. I have arranged to do voluntary work in the Gambia with Save the Children. I had booked flights to Banjul with Thomas Cook, but its flights have been cancelled – and the passengers including me have not been notified!  I only discovered the flight suspension by reading third hand accounts on Trip Advisor.  When I logged on to ‘Manage My Booking’ on the Thomas Cook website the flight still appears to exist.  Surely this is highly irresponsible of Thomas Cook and unethical.   If I had already flown out I could have been left stranded in the Gambia without notification from Thomas Cook.  The Ebola crisis is growing in West Africa.  While some airlines have announced flight suspensions, Thomas Cook has failed to notify customers of flight cancellations.  VB, London.

A. Thomas Cook confirms that some flights have been cancelled, but says it is still flying to the Gambia on a reduced schedule. A spokesman for Thomas Cook Airlines explains: “Our weekly winter flight programme to Gambia is now two flights from Gatwick, two from Manchester and one from Birmingham.  We’re now contacting those customers booked on two flights each week that we have now consolidated into this revised programme – we’d like to apologies to Ms Blake for the delay in making contact but we’re pleased that we’ve been able to help find alternative travel arrangements.”  Your flight has now been re-arranged, without additional cost.

Q. I have had ISA units in Brown Shipley’s UK Flagship fund account for many years. I have now been told by them that they are going to close this fund and transfer my ISA units into one of their internationally managed funds if I don’t notify them urgently. My ISA investment has been very poor over the long time they managed it. If I cash it in I will lose the ISA tax advantage, but they have told me there would not be a cost or dilution charge. Can you tell me if there are any other alternatives for my investment, or would it be better to cash it in?  RJ, by email.   A.  You can transfer the ISA to another ISA to avoid losing the investment’s tax free interest, points out Philippa Gee, managing director of Philippa Gee Wealth Management. “The challenge is that there are so many different funds to choose from, you need to be willing to spend some time carrying out the appropriate research, or appoint someone to advise you,” she says. “First of all you need to consider a ‘Platform’ where your ISA would be transferred to, with which you could invest with a wide range of different fund management groups, so you should have access to a range of holdings and monitor them more closely. If you are unhappy with one of your new funds, you would just switch to an alternative fund. Next you need to consider exactly what funds might suit you; are you looking for income or growth, what time frame and risk? By setting in place your requirements, your range of potential funds should decrease as well, making the decision easier.” A spokesman for Brown Shipley confirms that it will not levy a charge if you transfer your investment to another fund, but says the firm expects returns to improve in its new fund.  “The new fund is more efficient and diversified as it is a global product and therefore gives increased investment opportunities,” says the spokesman.

A. In May we switched energy supplier to save money, choosing an online fixed priced tariff offer from Scottish Power. The initial process went smoothly, but a couple of weeks later we received a letter from Scottish Power saying our electricity meter “was not supported by them”. They stated they would cancel the transaction and return us to our old supplier.  The previous supplier refused to have us back as electricity customers, so Scottish Power was forced to become our supplier. However, we were still being supplied gas by the previous supplier, while now receiving electricity from Scottish Power, both on standard tariffs. The obvious solution was to now switch the gas supply. I did this over the phone and was told it was successful, that they had our direct debit details and we would be on a new online fixed price tariff to June 2015. The direct debit was to be taken on 24 June. No payment was taken in June.  I then contacted Scottish Power again, who said they did not hold any bank details and that we did not have a gas account with them. To then took our bank details again and said they would create a gas account. This in July, but they said it was too late to put the direct debit in place for the 24 July, but it would definitely be taken on 24 August.  I rang again in the middle of August and was told the direct debit was definitely in place, that they were in the process of creating a gas account, but that it was taking longer than normal.  The payment has still not been taken.  LD, Nottingham.

Q. A ScottishPower spokeswoman responds: “We accepted [the reader’s] supply application in good faith as the application stated that the electricity meter was on the Economy 7 tariff which we can support.  However, on receipt of the meter technical details, this was [found] not [to be] the case.  The tariff relating to the meter was not one that we can support.  We attempted to return the supply to the previous supplier, but they rejected this. In order to resolve this we have reconfigured our systems in this instance so that we can bill the customer on Economy 7, which is the nearest tariff to the one the customer would have been on originally. This is a legacy of the old regional electricity suppliers, where unique tariffs were available to certain areas. We have apologised to the reader for the delay and are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

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