Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  I am a teacher who was, until recently, on the Repayment of Teachers Loan scheme (RTL). This was to repay the student loan that I graduated from university with, because I was teaching a shortage subject.  I moved school just under three years ago.  I sent off many change of circumstance forms to notify them of this.  The correspondence I received in reply was erratic
and minimal. Eventually, two months ago, I started having loan repayments deducted from my salary. I wrote to the RTL office and received a reply a month later stating that I had been removed from the scheme as I had not notified them of a change in circumstance and the decision would stand.  This is despite me sending off many change of circumstance forms and trying to contact the RTL office on many occasions throughout the three years.  On top of this, the communication I have had from them has been virtually non-existent. MD, by email.


A.  RTL is administered by the Student Loans Company.  Its spokeswoman apologises for the difficulties you have encountered.  “We received [the reader’s] change of circumstances form in January 2010, over two years after he changed employment,” she said.  “However, we accept [the reader’s] explanation and will fully reinstate him on the Repayment of Teachers Loans scheme. We will also reimburse him for any payments that have been deducted.”  The Student Loans Company stresses that anyone registered with RTL must inform it immediately of any change of employment or other circumstances. 

Q.  My daughter wants to pay off her student loan, but can’t get any help from the Student Loans Company about how to do it. They don’t reply to her e-mails and the people who answer the phone are very vague. She can’t access her account online, she didn’t get a statement last year and she hasn’t had one this year – so even if she knew the procedure for paying it off, she wouldn’t be able to do it.  KS, West Yorkshire.


A.  A spokeswoman for the Student Loans Company says: “We’re sorry that one of our customers is having difficulty making repayments.  We have a dedicated repayment phone line for customers: 0845 0738 891, which is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5.30 pm.  Customers can also find out about using their online account, making payments, acquiring a password and resetting their accounts at,3866857&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL.  Annual statements are only sent to customers when the Student Loans Company receives their end of year employment file from HMRC.  Our secure website – – provides full information for customers on repaying their loans.  Customers can access an online calculator that provides a balance for their accounts and calculates interest so the customer can choose to pay either in part or in full.”


Q.  Can you explain what is happening to annuity rates. I have been tracking the best joint annuity rate at age 60 (50 per cent spouse, 3 per cent annual escalation) on the web site since December 2008.  Over this period the annuity rate has declined by 13 per cent. Over the same period the price for various long dated gilts has gone down in a range of 4 to 9 per cent, so yields have gone up. So reduced yields is not the explanation. What other factors affect annuity rates and is this decline likely to continue? PC, by email.


A.  Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at advisors Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “Annuity rates have effectively decoupled from gilt yields over the past couple of years.  There are a number of factors in play at present, all contributing to a decline in annuity rates.  Improving life expectancy continues to force insurers to adjust their payout terms as they have to stretch the income payments over longer periods. They don’t know when, or indeed if, this trend will run out of steam.”  Other factors that have negatively affected annuity rates include the anxiety in the capital markets – which has caused insurers to increase capital reserves – and the tendency of people in poor health to obtain individually underwritten annuity policies, which has had the effect of removing their subsidy from the general annuity pool.  “All this means that even if gilt yields do suddenly shoot upwards, you shouldn’t expect annuity rates to go rushing after them,” adds McPhail.


Q.  In January, my son was asked by the Metropolitan Police to pull over for a vehicle check.  The Special Constable then seized his vehicle, alleging that my son did not have valid insurance.  This was despite the fact that my son did have valid insurance and could prove this.  He had to find his own way home and pay £190 to have his car released.  It turns out that two policies were registered on the database for the one car, for two owners and with two insurers.  DB, London.


A.  The Royal Bank of Scotland has accepted that it made a mistake and failed to remove its old policy from the Motor Insurance Bureau database after the previous owner of your son’s car sold the vehicle.  On this basis, RBS has agreed to refund your son with the £190 paid to recover the vehicle.  However, RBS refuses to refund incidental costs of £1,500 that you have claimed, including £500 of the time of family members in seeking to resolve the matter and £300 for lost overtime.  RBS stresses that the Metropolitan Police’s Special Constable had no legal grounds for seizing your son’s car and should have given him seven days to produce the paperwork at a police station.


Q.  I am a university student and subscribed to Virgin Media broadband from the beginning of the academic year.  The broadband never worked.  I want a refund of the line rental and instalation costs.  CR, Manchester. 


A.  Virgin Media’s investigation concluded that you used the wrong login details.  On this basis, Virgin Media declines to refund the instalation or broadband rental fee.  It is sending you £10: the amount you have overpaid your account.

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