Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  A couple of years ago you helped with a large debt from O2 Ireland.  As a result of your help, O2 Ireland stopped making demands for an old disputed mobile phone bill.  But now my mother in County Cork has received a demand addressed to me from debt collectors of €1,180.34.  MR, London.


A.  When we tried to assist you before, the result was not completely satisfactory: although you were no longer chased for the debt, we had been unable to obtain confirmation that the disputed debt had been written-off.  That debt re-emerged in February, when your mother received a new demand from debt collectors, the Irish Debt Bureau.  This led to worries for both her and you.  Happily we can report a better outcome this time.  We contacted the Irish Debt Bureau, which immediately ceased its attempts to collect the debt.   After investigating the matter further, the company has now arranged with O2 Ireland to completely write-off the debt.  A spokesman for the Irish Debt Bureau said: “Having fully reviewed the case we are satisfied that all procedures carried out to recover this debt were appropriate.
Having discussed this case with our client however, and taking into account both [the reader’s] concerns about possible mis-selling of the original contract by a third party, and the fact that the phone was subsequently stolen, I am happy to confirm that our client has agreed to make a goodwill gesture in this case and write-off the debt in its entirety….. The debt will be removed from our records and no further action will be taken with respect to this debt.”

Q.  I opened an ISA with Nationwide in 1999.  By April last year this had accumulated to £ 6,961.25 in an instant access account and £26,433.52 in a fixed one year bond, maturing matured that month. On the 21 May 2009 Nationwide advised me that since I had given no other instruction the funds in my one year bond had been transferred to an instant access ISA: I assumed this was the existing instant access account.  The return was only 0.5 per cent on this, so I decided to transfer the balance to M&S Financial Services.  On 12 June M&S confirmed it had written to Nationwide to implement the transfer. On 19 June Nationwide wrote to say it had transferred £6,965.02 to M&S.  I phoned Nationwide to ask why the rest of the ISA funds had not been transferred and was told these were held in an internet instant access account and I must complete another transfer form to withdraw these. I promptly completed and returned another form.  On 29 September M&S wrote to confirm it had contacted the Portman Building Society to transfer my funds, which could take three to four weeks to complete. M&S wrote again on 13 November to say it had not heard from Nationwide, which had ‘not replied to any of our chase letters’.  It turned out that the bulk of the funds had gone into an account with a different account number, so I had to complete another transfer form.  On 2 December I again heard from M&S saying it had forwarded details to Nationwide.  M&S eventually received £26,625.48 from Nationwide over six months after my first transfer request.  The delay cost me about £180 in lost interest. SG, Aylesford.


A.  Nationwide argues that much of the delay was caused by you quoting the wrong account number on the paperwork supplied to you by M&S FS.  Nationwide says it provided the correct account information when it opened your new instant access ISA upon the termination of the bond.  It also says that this documentation made clear that the proceeds of the bond were being transferred to a new ISA, not into the existing ISA.  The forms it received from M&S FS requesting transfers quoted the account number for the by then closed ISA, rather than the one still open.  But Nationwide adds that “we accept that this could have been resolved sooner”.  Consequently it is paying you the sum of £258.86 – its more generous calculation of your lost interest.  In addition, it will pay you another £50 “in compensation for the inconvenience caused in resolving this issue”.


Q.  A year ago I successfully applied for a Shell Citi credit card, attracted by a generous discount offer related to buying Shell petrol.  I’ve paid the bill in full every month and not incurred any interest.  I wasn’t asked what credit limit I would like but the credit limit was set at £16,000.  Now I’ve received a letter saying that my credit limit has been reduced to £4,650 – quite a bit below the amount I have spent in several months.  RH, Shrewsbury.


A.  Citi says that it conducted a review of all its card accounts in January and that yours was one that had its limit reduced as a result.  Citi says: “Decreasing credit limits on credit cards accounts is a routine activity and common across the credit card industry.  The decision to reduce a credit limit is based on a number of factors, including customer behaviour, how the account has been run as well as information we receive from other lenders and the credit reference agencies. In [the reader’s] case the decision was taken based on our internal data and took into consideration how [the reader] had used his account in the past months.  [The reader’s] recent average balance on his account was around £3,300, and his credit limit was £16,000. Before decreasing [the reader’s] limit we ensured there would be adequate headroom between his existing balance and his new credit limit.”  The Citi Shell card and the related rewards programme is no longer available.

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