Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  I came to the end of a three year fixed price contract for electricity with EDF on 31 March.   I decided to transfer to Scottish Power, which was now cheaper.   I instructed Scottish Power to take over the account from 1 April 2010.  But EDF wrote on 18 March stating that the transfer was refused because Scottish Power had requested to take my supply before the end of contract period.   It appears that because I did not myself write to EDF 30 days before end of contract to authorise the transfer to Scottish Power they would not allow the transfer and I am now contracted to EDF for another 12 months at their higher prices, unless I pay a £500 termination fee.  Scottish Power says it is happy to proceed with the transfer.  I am livid.  PS, by email.


A.  EDF has now agreed with you a new contract at “very competitive prices”, backdated to 1 April.  You have obtained a further 2.5 per cent discount on this price by agreeing to pay your bills by direct debit.  EDF says that it has agreed a variation in normal procedures as you “a long standing, valued customer”.  It explains that you had not complied with the terms of the contract relating to transferring suppliers, as specified in a letter in January that warned you that the previous contract was nearing its end.


Q.  I have just reviewed my finances and believe that I have been subject to grossly unfair charges on my Alliance & Leicester accounts since August 2008, when I switched banks.  My partner and I switched to A&L because of its promise of customer service support, but unfortunately we were not accepted for a loan.  My partner then returned to full usage of his existing NatWest account.  I continued with an A&L account, which I now realise I was being charged £5 a month for a £250 overdraft – which I had been told was free when I opened the account.  When I realised this I also reverted to my NatWest account.  In January this year I transferred £250 into my personal A&L account and another £250 into our joint account to clear the overdraft.  Unfortunately I failed to also close the accounts.  I have now received statements from A&L which show charges of £100 on my personal account since January and £195 on our jonit account.  In addition, there have been monthly charges of £5 on each account for the overdraft facilities.  I feel the charges are unfair.  LH, Cardiff.


A.  Although you paid £250 into your personal account in January, at that point the overdraft stood at £336.27.  Overdraft fees for December were then added to the remaining balance as you had exceeded your permitted £250 limit.  Further fees have since been applied as you are failing to comply with a condition of the account that you make a minimum monthly credit to your account of £500.  You also used the account debit card in April, leaving a balance on the account of £235.27 overdrawn.  The joint account was also overdrawn above the agreed £250 limit when you paid £250 in this account in January.  With the overdraft and underfunding charges that have been applied since then, this account is now £431.82 overdrawn and remains above the agreed limit.  You have accepted this explanation of Santander (which now owns Alliance & Leicester), but are unhappy that the bank did not do more to make you aware of the state of your account.  Santander has now agreed with you a schedule of repayments to clear the debts.


Q.  I took out a mortgage in 2000 with Scottish Amicable – now owned by the Prudential.  I opted for the Home Purchaser package with critical illness cover.  I did this to cover myself in case I became critically ill to ensure the debt would be paid-off.  Circumstances have changed and we have paid-off the debt in advance of the maturity date of 2015, so I no longer need this cover.  I have asked Prudential to cancel it, but it refuses.  BC, by email.


A.  Prudential says that once you opted for critical illness cover this became part of the agreement, which cannot be altered.  It insists you are covered against critical illness for the duration of the agreement and must continue to pay for it.


Q.  In June 2006 I invested £1,000 in a three year Post Office Guaranteed Equity Bond.  In July 2006 I invested another £1,000 in the same bond issue.  In July this year I received the proceeds from the maturity of one of the bonds, but I have not received the payment for the other bond on maturity.  VG, Woodbridge.


A.  The Post Office has done a thorough search of its records, which show that both payments were made to you by BACs transfers.  You have now checked your account statements and accept this is correct.


Q.  My partner and I moved house in February and paid Royal Mail for its Redirection Service to our new home, paying £34 for both our names, covering three months.  That redirection has consistently failed.  Our former landlord has picked-up the mail and made it available for us to collect.  The service worked fine for the first two weeks, but since then it has consistently not worked properly.  We have taken this up with Royal Mail, but it has declined to make a refund as it says I am changing my mind about wanting the service.  Instead they offer compensation of two books of postage stamps, which is nowhere near the £34 cost of the failed service.  ES, Sheffield. 


A.  Royal Mail accepts that your request was for a refund of a service that had not worked, rather than a claim for compensation, or seeking to retrospectively cancel the service.  It has written directly to you to apologise and made a full refund.



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