Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. I have a problem with British Gas that has been going on for nearly two years. I applied for a dual fuel deal with British Gas. The electricity transferred without a hitch, but when I was billed the charge for the gas used the meter reading from a neighbour’s flat. Eventually I gave up trying to switch the gas and stayed with my original supplier, Scottish & Southern. I repeatedly tried to get BG to recognize the situation, but it ignored my phone calls and then I received demands from debt collectors. I referred the matter to the Ombudsman, but the mess continued. BG continued threatening recovery action and the Ombudsman awarded me £40. Eventually in September I was sent a letter admitting I was billed under the wrong meter and I was promised a payment of £208, for the overpayments made on the account, plus the £40 compensation. That cheque has still not arrived. RG, Plymouth.

A British Gas apologises. A spokeswoman explains: “A cheque was issued, but then cancelled in error and so it was not sent out. It has now been re-issued for £258 – including a £50 goodwill gesture, in recognition of the delay – and it has been posted.” BG says that despite your long correspondence with the company, it has no record of you having contacted BG since September to complain that you had not received this cheque. It says it was therefore unaware that you had not received the payment.

Q. I am an RBS current account customer and I am thinking of transferring to Santander, to take advantage of an offer of £100 for new accounts – but I don’t want to stay with Santander for the long-term. I might do the same in a few months with First Direct. If I do this, is it likely to damage my credit rating? SW, London.

A. Moving your current account should not negatively affect your credit rating – and could improve it, as potential lenders might be reassured by your ability to properly manage several accounts. It is possible, though, that banks will observe your so-called ‘rate tart’ behaviour from your credit reference – and consequently not allow you to take advantage of some offers for opening new accounts. James Jones of Experian explains: “Lenders do have their own ideas of what is an ideal customer and this might go against [the reader]. But I don’t think it is much of an issue.” He warns, though, that it is essential that anyone chasing the best rates and introductory offers on credit cards and bank accounts must ensure they properly close accounts when they cease using them – not only for security reasons, but also to reassure potential lenders that they do not have large existing credit lines available to them.

Q. I bought a digital photo frame from Curry’s online in September. When the delivery arrived it contained a cheap nylon computer bag, with the customer details of a person in London. I phoned customer services, but the operator seemed disinterested: he promised to send me an email with a printable label to return the item for collection by DHL the next day, but no e-mail arrived and the item was not collected. I phoned again and was told there was no record of me having phoned previously. I was then told I could return the item at my local Curry’s store and exchange the item for the ordered photo frame. I explained that I had bought the item online as it was not available in my local store. I was then assured I could go to the store and get a full refund, providing I took my e-mail confirmation of the order. When I went to the local store, I was told no refund was possible for the return of an item bought online. The store then spoke to the customer services section and agreed to take the returned item and for me to get a refund online. That refund did not arrive. In October I wrote a letter of complaint, which was ignored. I sent another letter of complaint, which led to letters and a phone call agreeing to make a refund, plus £15 for my trouble. I received the £15 in November, but I am still waiting for the refund of the £35 I paid for the photo frame. DS, Derby.

A Curry’s is part of the Dixons Retail Group. A spokeswoman for the company apologises for your problems. “Unfortunately we had a temporary issue with our returns system which had not logged the return and therefore the refund was not automatically issued,” she says. The company promises that you will now receive your refund, plus an additional £35 as a second gesture of goodwill.

Q. In December I went to use my Santander debit card in Peter Jones’ department store, where the card was declined. It was also declined in Sainsbury’s. This is very embarrassing. Since then I have made at least half a dozen telephone calls and visited my local branch to get the card reactivated, but without success. I have been given different explanations of the problem. I was then issued with a new debit card, which I was told would work with my old PIN – it didn’t. I was then told that I had to go my local Santander branch to unlock it, using my old PIN. That didn’t work. I was then told that it wouldn’t work as I had asked for a new PIN – which I hadn’t – and that the card was locked until the new PIN was issued and the card unlocked. I still haven’t received the new card. To access my own money I have had to go to my Santander branch to transfer money to a Nationwide account and use this. YT, Richmond.

A You have now received your new PIN and are able to use your card again. Santander apologises for the problems you have had and it is crediting your account with £55 as a goodwill gesture.

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