Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  I opened an E-ISA with NatWest on 28 April 2009. At that time it was the best ISA available that allowed transfers from existing ISAs.  But I believe NatWest applied the wrong interest rate. I should have received 3 per cent or 3.26 per cent AER, but I only received their current rate of 2 per cent AER.  I have sent two letters, but haven’t received a reply to my second letter. DK, by email.

A  NatWest accepts your argument.  A spokeswoman says: “Despite receiving [the reader’s] E-Isa forms at the beginning of May, the account was not actually opened until 28 May. We apologise for this delay and for not resolving this problem sooner. During this time, the interest rate on this account for new customers had decreased from 3.21 per cent APR to 2.23 per cent APR, so the revised, lower rate was applied to [the reader’s] account as a result of the delay.”  NatWest has now applied the higher rate of interest to your ISA backdated to 1 June last year, when the account should have been opened, with the funds received from your previous ISA.  That amount has been forwarded to your new ISA, held with Santander.  NatWest has also sent you a cheque for £50 “in recognition of this lapse of customer service”.

Q.  In August last year I lost a baby when I miscarried.  I was heartbroken.  Many letters were put in a bag to be opened later, but never were.  A few weeks ago I found these letters and opened an O2 bill from October 2009 for £508.71.  The high bill was from ‘international data roaming’ charges – yet I had not left the UK.  My husband’s parents live in Derry, which is in the UK but on the border with Southern Ireland. Often phones on the Northern Ireland border pick-up networks in Southern Ireland.  I spoke to O2, which sympathised and said that if I had contacted them quickly it probably would have refunded most of the charges. Instead it offered me 200 free minutes.  This would be useless to me as I only use about 60 minutes a month.  I have not heard anything since.  CM, Belfast.


A  O2 calculates the data roaming element of that bill at £484.77.  It is not willing to waive this charge in full, but has offered to split the cost and make a refund of £242.39.  You have accepted this offer.  O2 recommends that people living or visiting border areas of Northern Ireland set network selection to manual rather than automatic to prevent mobile handsets switching to services in the Irish Republic.  It adds that you would not have been offered a refund had you contacted it when you received the bill initially.  It is only willing to apply a credit for a data roaming service that has been used inadvertently if the service has never previously been used: in your case, you had used the service before and paid for it.


Q.  My wife phoned Virgin Travel Insurance on 8 July and took out a single trip travel insurance for a cruise holiday from 29 July to 10 August.   She was told the policy would be sent by post and she had 14 days to change her mind and cancel her policy for a full refund.   Two days later she phoned to make a minor addition to pre-existing illnesses. She was told her policy would be cancelled and she would be issued with a new policy without any additional charge.  The next day she phoned again to cancel this policy, as she obtained a multi-trip annual policy from Age Concern that was better value.  When she phoned Virgin, she was told she could cancel the policy, but could not obtain a refund.   Virgin now says that for all single trip policies that have an end date within one month of the date of purchase, there is no cancellation cooling off period and no refund is payable in these circumstances.  It did agree to provide a refund as an exception, providing we sent a copy of the alternative policy and confirmed that the Virgin policy was not utilized.  We did this, but have not heard anything more.  NM, by email.


A  When your wife initially phoned, the end date of the holiday was more than a month later.  On this basis, the cooling-off period applied.  But when the policy was cancelled and replaced, the end date of the holiday was now less than a month away and the cooling-off period no longer applied.  Virgin has listened to the recording of the conversation between your wife and its operative: that recording reveals that your wife was informed of this.  Virgin says that despite this, it agreed on a goodwill basis to refund the insurance premium.  It received the proof that you took out another policy on 19 August and sent you a full refund on 31 August – the day before you contacted us.

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