Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  In January I purchased an Iriver Story e-book from for £179.99. In March, the screen went blank. I tried to contact, but it has a 28 days returns policy because they are in Jersey.  I did not know this when ordering, assuming I had UK rights to return goods that went wrong.  I therefore contacted Iriver, seeking to return this under warranty.  It sent me an address in Germany, with a return authorisation number to put at the top of the package.  I sent it at a cost of £12, insured for £200.  After a week I contacted Iriver because I had heard nothing.  It asked me for a copy of the postage receipts, which I scanned and emailed.  It then told me I had sent it to their ‘old address’ – but this was the specific address Iriver had emailed me the week before.  Iriver said they were sorry and would contact me if it ever arrives – but I have heard nothing more and it seems unlikely the device will now be delivered.  BM, Birmingham.


A. does accept returns after 28 days where goods are faulty and the company says that it complies fully with UK law in terms of consumer rights.  It is reviewing its website to make its returns policy more explicit.  The company has sent you a replacement e-reader, plus a refund of £13 to cover your postage costs.  It will discuss with Iriver the problems you have experienced to ensure they are not repeated for other customers.


Q.  I have had an account with Orange for many years.  Since 2007 this has been linked to my broadband account, paid through direct debit.  I recently realized that Orange has been successfully claiming two monthly payments by direct debit – one for this account and a second payment of £30 per week.  I don’t understand why this second monthly payment has been claimed.  The phone number referred to on this second monthly payment is not one I recognize.  After several calls to Orange, it claimed that it had no written record of this number being ordered, ‘so it must have been a verbal instruction’.  Yet that second phone number has never been used and I have never received a bill for it.  Apparently I have been charged for this number since August 2006.  DM, London.


A.  Orange argues that the payments from your account were triggered by someone impersonating you and carrying out a fraud.  However, our examination of the circumstances suggests there is some doubt about this – not least because although a mobile phone number was generated, the account seems to have never been used.  Although Orange accepts that you never ordered the mobile phone line, nor ever used it, Orange declined to refund you directly with your overpayment.  Instead, Orange insisted that you seek the money from your bank, NatWest, using the Direct Debit Guarantee.  This guarantee is supposed to be of assistance to individuals in situations such as yours – but in the event it became a barrier to repayment, with Orange referring you and us to NatWest for repayment, while you tell us that staff in your NatWest branch told you this was not possible.  When NatWest conducted its own investigations it agreed to fully refund you on the basis of the Direct Debit Guarantee and has refunded you £1,300.  Orange says it has, in turn, now refunded NatWest.


A spokeswoman for Orange says:  “We have thoroughly investigated this and believe the details used in the creation of this account were provided by an individual fraudulently claiming to be [the reader] and had nothing to do with details on the customer’s other Orange account.  As soon as [the reader] advised that she had not authorised the connection of this account, the account was cancelled immediately.  As with all fraudulent activity relating to a direct debit, it is standard to advise the customer to speak to their bank to request a direct debit indemnity form, to ensure the customer will be reimbursed by their bank within 24 hours of receipt under the Direct Debit Guarantee.”


Q.  I was unable to travel to Budapest when easyJet cancelled my flight from Gatwick.  It claimed this was because of the Icelandic ash problem, but it was before the airspace was closed.  I was told by easyJet at the airport – and this was confirmed in a letter handed to passengers – that it would refund my costs for travelling to Budapest by train or bus.  Instead, easyJet has refunded only £200 – half my return plane costs to Budapest.  The journey by train involved my travel companion and myself getting one train to Paris and then making a further six connections to Budapest, costing us £900.  I provided easyJet with the receipts, but it has refused to reimburse us.  EasyJet is applying a strict interpretation of the European Directive on compensation for cancelled flights and says that the re-routing entitlement does not cover trains.   The booked return flight was unaffected and we travelled back by plane.  MS, by email.


A.  You were fortunate enough to have been given the wrong letter by easyJet staff, which promised you a refund for travelling by rail to your destination.  Apparently this was an old version of its letter to passengers whose flights are cancelled and all copies should have been destroyed.  EasyJet spokesman Andrew McConnell says: easyJet apologises for the cancellation of the flight, this was due to the air space closure caused by the Icelandic volcano. In accordance with the European Regulation, the airline’s obligation in respect of rerouting is either to provide another flight at the earliest opportunity, another flight at a later date, or to refund the original air fare.  However, since in this instance the passenger was given a written assurance that easyJet would reimburse expenses for rail or bus travel, we have as a gesture of goodwill reimbursed these costs.”  Other readers who were not inadvertently given the same letter by easyJet are unlikely to be as lucky.


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