Questions of Cash – September 2015

Q. I have received a letter correctly addressed regarding my house number and street and my surname, but with the wrong first name.  I opened it, assuming it was intended for me, and found that it claimed that I had a debt with O2 that had been sold to Lowell Financial for collection.  I have never had an account with O2, or with any other mobile phone company.  I also have no outstanding debts.  I phoned Lowell and was told that incorrect information had been given to Lowell by another company.  I was advised to do a check on my credit status, as this may have been affected.  Despite my protest that I had been involved in a matter that was nothing to do with me, I was informed that any correction could not be made by Lowell Financial.  I would be very grateful for any information on what means of redress are available for people like myself who have been treated in such a cavalier fashion by these finance companies.  AT, London.

A. We have been in contact with Lowell, the Experian credit reference agency and the O2 and EE mobile phone companies in order to understand what happened.  About six years ago someone carried out a fraud against what was then the Orange mobile phone company, which is now part of EE.  That person used a similar – though not quite identical – surname to yours, but a different first name and address.  For some reason – perhaps the same date of birth – the fraudster’s details became linked to your credit reference status.  After that same fraudster undertook a similar scam with O2 attempts to recover the debt ended up with a letter to your address.  Following our contact with it, credit reference agency Experian has now deleted the link on its records between yourself and the fraudster, recognising that you are not connected in any way, other than your surname, with that person.  On that basis, Lowell will not be contacting you again in this matter.  A spokeswoman for Lowell says: “Given that [the reader] felt the need to turn to the Independent for further reassurance, we will continue to explore how we can offer a clearer explanation in the future.”  James Jones of Experian says: “Data accuracy is a top priority and we run several hundred tests on incoming data, but this sort of thing wouldn’t be picked up by our routine checks. It’s one of the reasons why we encourage people to review their own credit reports from time to time so we can investigate and correct any anomalies like this.”  Experian has provided you with a free copy of your credit report: your credit status is undamaged.

Q. I booked a holiday last November with Thomson and paid £90 extra to upgrade the luggage allowance to 20kg for five people.  I have now printed the e-tickets and realise the flight is with, which I know allows 22kgs for luggage.  My local travel agent informs me it can refund the £90, but that I would then only have a 15kgs luggage allowance as the holiday is with Thomson.  It seems unfair that we have different conditions from other passengers on the Jet2 flight.  JB, Nottinghamshire.

A. Thomson says it was unaware of your concern, which was not communicated to it.  Your luggage fee has been refunded and you can avail of a 22kgs luggage allowance.

Q. I am concerned that someone banned by the former Financial Services Authority is now operating as a letting agent.  He does not appear on the Ombudsman register, which is a legal requirement.  The individual involved is Shaun Lawrence and his new business is called L&B Property Management, in Nottingham.  AN, Derbyshire.

A. We spoke to Shaun Lawrence, who told us that he is not conducting any regulated financial business and so is not in breach of his ban.  The Financial Conduct Authority – which has replaced the FSA – confirms that his activities are not subject to its regulation. Mr Lawrence added regarding the ban: “That was years ago.”  He also stated: “We are registered with the Ombudsman.”  We checked this with The Property Ombudsman Service, which said that neither Shaun Lawrence nor L&B Property Management is registered with it, nor is any other business using its address.  A spokeswoman added: “if the agent is dealing with residential sales within the UK it is a legal requirement. In regards to lettings, it is a requirement if the agent is based in England.”  The firm’s website – – tells tenants “L&B – Property Management is an agency which specialises in quality rental properties.”  We have therefore referred the matter to The Property Ombudsman Service’s membership compliance administrator to investigate.

Q. I recently changed employment.  With my previous employer I had a health insurance policy, through which eight sessions of physiotherapy had been approved.  But I changed jobs before the sessions had begun.  The insurer, Simplyhealth, has now refused to pay, on the basis that the policy was cancelled by my ex-employer.  Simplyhealth says that treatment is only covered while an active policy is in place.  I have had to pay the physiotherapist £210.  Do I have any recourse against Simplyhealth?  TP, Lincolnshire.

A. Simplyhealth insists it has acted in line with its obligations under your former employer’s policy.  Its spokeswoman says: “In our private medical insurance policy terms and conditions we explain that when an employer cancels an employee’s membership, we will not pay for any treatment they receive after the cancellation date. This includes treatment that was previously given our authorisation. Our contract is with the employer and it is their responsibility to inform the employee that they will no longer be covered under the company’s private medical insurance scheme.  It’s disappointing when a situation occurs which leaves a customer dissatisfied. In these circumstances we invite them to get in contact and follow our formal complaints process.”  You are likely to be disappointed with this response – so we suggest you pursue the formal complaints procedure as suggested.

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