Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  My home was severely damaged in the Cumbrian floods in November.  Months later no repair work has started and my young child and I must live in rented accommodation.  Can you get my insurer – Tesco – to speed-up its processes?  It commissioned one report on the state of the property and then rejected the report and commissioned a second one.  The first report said a water channel had been cut under my home: the second says there is no evidence of this and the insurer refuses to investigate this further.  I have been told the insurer will only pay for repairs to damage that can be seen and even if it could be seen, I could not prove it had been caused by the flood!  Despite their argument, water entered my property again in February.  Before November I had a 16th or 17th century farmhouse that did not flood and was not a flood risk.  Now I have to live in temporary accommodation.  All I want is my home reinstated to the condition it was in before the floods.  AT, Cumbria.


A.  A further structural report was commissioned after we contacted Tesco.  This latest report has now been examined by the insurance underwriter.  A report from a qualified structural engineer previously found no external damage that will give rise to repeat flooding: the latest report has confirmed this finding.  To support its view that the property is not at increased risk of future flooding – and that the original flooding was the result of severe meteorological events that are unlikely to recur – Tesco is willing to continue insuring your property.  Tesco accepts that delays in carrying-out the repairs were caused by the processing of the claim and obtaining the various reports. It has apologised for this and provided you with £1,000 in compensation.  It says that it has now put in place measures to ensure there are no further delays in fully repairing your property.


Q.  I booked a holiday with Goldtrail, which has now gone broke.  I then booked a replacement flight through the same travel agency, Flights & Packages in London.  Its representative said that if we paid £299 pounds each for the four of us, instead of cancelling all of the holiday he would send us the paperwork to claim our refund from ABTA for the flight, while the accommodation booking would stand. I did this, but I have not received the new paperwork as promised, or a receipt for the money I paid by credit card.  I am worried.  SM, Gwynedd.


A.  You are understandably nervous about your holiday following the collapse of Goldtrail.  But the travel agency, Flights & Packages, makes the reasonable point that you are not scheduled to travel until September and that you need to contain your anxiety.  It has emailed us a copy of your booking contract and says this will be with you in the post shortly.  As with other travel agencies, Flights & Packages is inundated with administration dealing with the Goldtrail collapse, as well as the peak holiday season.  Incidentally, it is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) rather than ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agencies) that provided guarantees for Goldtrail and to which your refund application will be submitted.  You should be liable for a refund of £878 for the cost of the air fares booked via Goldtrail. 


Q.  I took out a two year mobile broadband contract with Orange via CarphoneWarehouse in July 2008.   The contract was for £25 per month for a laptop with a dongle and limited download usage.  The same mobile usage was available without the laptop for a lower monthly fee of, I think, £12.50.  So I paid £12.50 a month each for the laptop and the mobile internet.  Billing is direct from Orange.  Last autumn the laptop developed a fault – the battery wouldn’t charge – and CarphoneWarehouse asked me to return it at my own expense to the manufacturer for repair.  The manufacturer advised me it was outside the six month warranty and would cost £110 to be repaired.  I responded by telling Orange in late November that as the laptop was faulty I wasn’t prepared to pay the monthly fee until it was replaced by them under the Sale of Goods Act.  I believe that under the Act the laptop should be fit for purpose for a reasonable amount of time after purchase: as the contract was for two years, the laptop should be fault-free for two years.  In December I spoke to Orange on the phone and we agreed that I would cancel the direct debit and Orange would send me new bills for us to negotiate about.  I heard no more until March when I received a demand for £82.02.  I have told Orange that I was not prepared to make any payments until the laptop is returned to working order.  Orange says that CarphoneWarehouse is responsible: CarphoneWarehouse says that it is not responsible as it is only the agent for Orange.  A debt collection agency is now threatening legal action.  MS, Surrey.

A.  Orange has investigated the cause of the problem with the laptop, but argues that any problems must be resolved with CarphoneWarehouse.  But CarphoneWarehouse insists that it has no legal liability regarding the laptop malfunction and that the fault occurred beyond the six months covered both by the manufacturer’s warranty and your statutory rights.  It says there is no evidence that there was a fault when the product was sold to you, suggesting the laptop was “of satisfactory quality at point of sale”.  A spokesman says: “We would like to encourage all readers to make sure they fully understand warranty terms and conditions when purchasing products and that at present no connection exists between the length of the contract and warranties.”  However, as a gesture of goodwill the CarphoneWarehouse is crediting you with the £82.02.


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