Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  I recently listed a camera for sale on eBay.  The item sold to a bidder in Lithuania and I received a PayPal payment.  I telephoned eBay to check the transaction was legitimate: the operative told me everything was in order and it was ok to send the camera to Lithuania.  I asked if a PayPal payment could be reversed: she said the only reasons were if the item was faulty or did not arrive.  There was no mention of fraud.  PayPal now says the payment was unauthorised and has been reversed.  This has left me with a negative balance of £560.08 on my PayPal account, for which it is demanding payment.  Apparently there is a further check I could have done when I received the PayPal payment; however, the eBay representative did not mention this despite my concerns about the transaction.  PayPal tell me it is not responsible for the advice that eBay gave me.  AF, by email.

A.  You were the victim of a fraud: the payment to you was not authorised by the holder of the PayPal account used to buy the item. PayPal says that all sellers must follow certain rules in order to be covered by its seller protection guarantee.  Those rules are that goods should only be posted to the address that appears in the transaction details; caution must be exercised if the seller is asked to post the items to a country that is different from the address of the PayPal account; recorded delivery, or another form of trackable delivery, should be used; proof of delivery by signature should be obtained.  You sent the camera to an address in Lithuania not listed on the transaction details screen and therefore lost your eligibility for seller protection for this transaction.  However, given the misleading advice given to you by the representative of eBay – which owns PayPal – PayPal has credited your account with £610.09 as a goodwill gesture, which includes an extra £50 to compensate you for distress.  Debt collectors who were instructed to take action against you shortly after you wrote to us have been instructed to take no further action.


Q.  I cannot retrieve £650 from Smile bank.  I overpaid my landlord by £650, so she arranged to transfer the money back to me on April 19.  Unfortunately there was a mistake on the sort code and the money was transferred to an incorrect number.  She contacted the bank immediately and reported this.  Since then they still have been unable to retrieve the cash.  Smile has been contacted numerous times to make some progress, but without success. I’ve tried speaking to them via their complaints department, but they say they won’t deal with me or even update me even though my landlord has specifically asked them too.  She is speaking to them every week but they have made no progress. IT, Glasgow.


A.  It has taken us several months to get to the bottom of this, but eventually this has been resolved.  The original mistake was by you, when you made an overpayment.  You compounded this by giving your former landlady the wrong sort code to transfer the money back to you.  Your landlady was under the impression that this the money had not been returned to her.  But after speaking to both your bank, Lloyds, and your landlady’s bank, Smile, we have established that the funds were returned to your landlady’s account six days after she sent them using the wrong account information.  Your landlady failed to notice this at the time, but she now accepts the money was returned to her account.  There is therefore no reason for her to not make the refund to you – this time using the correct account details.

Q.  I have my gas and electricity supplied by EDF Energy.  I received a letter from them headed ‘Great savings with EDF Energy‘.  This explained that EDF is aligning the prices on my Online Tariff Version 5 with it ‘competitively priced standard tariff’ from 1 August 2010.  On examination these prices are substantially higher!  I queried this with EDF and was told that they had cheaper products available if I wanted to check their web site.  I have three issues with this: the misleading heading on the letter; being moved to a more expensive tariff than my current deal, even though the same company is offering cheaper deals; and the lack of notice before the change is implemented.  MW, Milton Keynes.


 A.  EDF has now spoken to you and discussed your tariff options.  As a result, it has moved you to a tariff cheaper than the Online Tariff Version 5.   An EDF spokeswoman explains: “We are unable to transfer customers onto other online products for legal reasons, as a customer must opt in to these products due to potential cancellation fees. Online prices are often time-limited to better reflect wholesale market movements and allow customers to choose regularly on what tariff they want to be on. These time periods are typically a year and customers can make significant savings compared to our standard prices during these periods. A typical customer will have saved £445.96 compared to our standard prices since the tariff was launched on 5 January 2007.”


Q.  I set-up a standing order with my bank, Lloyds TSB, in June 2006 for repayments on a car loan.  This arrangement was supposed to cease on 10 June this year with a final payment of £241. But despite reminding the bank before then and checking that this would happen, the bank made a further standing order payment on 12 July.  I have spent two weeks trying to get Lloyds to repay me the money.  I am so angry I will move my account.  RB, Cumbria.


A.  Lloyds says that shortly after you set-up the standing order in 2006, you changed the payment date.  This had the effect of missing one of your monthly payments.  Consequently the final payment was due in July this year, not June.  You have accepted this explanation.


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