Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. I have had an email from O2, my broadband provider, to say that the direct debit for my last payment was refused by my bank, Halifax. I went into my Halifax branch, to be told they could not help me unless I could produce ID with my address on it. I went into work to obtain ID, including copies of my passport and driving licence, plus a letter from the tax office, a credit card bill and my membership card from my professional accountancy institute, all with my address. When I went back to Halifax, I was told this was not enough, so the bank would put a stop on my account until I could show them some other ID. They would not explain why the account was on stop. I phoned the Halifax phone banking service, but was told my account could not be taken off stop. I then found the account had been on stop for several days, since a letter that was sent to my wife at our previous address – from which we moved in November 2007 – had been returned. I have had at least two direct debits bounce, as well as two cheques, which is highly embarrassing and frustrating: the account had more than sufficient funds. PA, Kent.

A Halifax says that the problem arose because when you notified the bank of your change of address, the contact details on your joint account with your wife were not updated by Halifax – which they should have been. Halifax accepts that your experience “was less than satisfactory” and apologises for the mistakes made and the lack of help given to you when you visited your branch. Feedback will be given to the manager of that branch, with the expectation that staff will be more helpful with other customers in future. Halifax has written to O2 to explain the reason for the non-processing of the direct debit and says that your credit report should not be affected. Halifax has offered you £300 as a goodwill gesture, which you have accepted.

Q. I had a NPower gas and electricity account while I was living with friends while studying at university. I asked for my name to be put on the account because I needed an address history for an application of my wife’s dependent visa from Pakistan. When my wife arrived, I moved out of the house. But my friends forgot to remove my name from the account. They then switched the energy account to Scottish Power, which promised to close the NPower account. However, NPower kept sending monthly bills. When Scottish Power realized what had happened, it returned the amounts paid to it. But it seems the bills from NPower were not paid. In 2009, I received two letters from NPower requesting payment for old bills. I told NPower that I had left the property in February 2009. I then set-up a payment plan for my friends and myself, without changing the names on the account. But my friends did not make the payments that were agreed. I told NPower, which asked me to send a copy of the tenancy agreement. Now Npower has done its own calculation and reduced the unpaid amount from £154.67 to £134.67, out of the total outstanding on the electricity account of £287.67. The gas account of £653.92 has now been fully paid. But I am unable to pay at present because a company I worked for failed to pay me the wages it owed me. AA, Bradford.

A A spokeswoman for NPower says: “[The reader] called us in October 2008 to let us know he was moving into the property – we duly opened an account in his name. He then contacted us in May 2009 to say he would be moving out of the property the following month and therefore would no longer be responsible for the account. We closed the account and the final balance came to £287.67 for electricity and £653.92 for gas. In September 2009, [the reader] called us as he had received a debt collection letter for the above amounts. He agreed to pay £100 a month towards the outstanding balance – £70 for gas and £30 for electricity.  We have now received a lodger’s agreement – dated from February 2009 – to say he moved address, so we are just in the process of updating his account.  To be honest, this is a cautionary tale – the situation has arisen because we were not informed that he had left the property until the end of November [last year] – nearly two years later.” NPower is now recalculating your account in line with this information.

Q. I have a cash ISA with Santander.  On 2 January I checked my account and was pleased to see that the annual interest had been added to my ISA, but when I rechecked on 11 January, I discovered that the interest had been reduced by £87.53.  When I spoke to Santander, I was told that the interest on my ISA had been calculated wrongly and subsequently reduced.  I received no communication from Santander that this had happened and no explanation about why it had happened.  GC, Powys.

A A spokeswoman for Santander says that “a technical error caused the interest to be calculated incorrectly on a small number of accounts, which have all been identified and the correct interest recalculated and posted to the accounts”. She adds: We did alert all affected customers of the issue, by delaying statements for one week to allow for the adjustments to be made and an apology was included within the statement. We understand [the reader] found out about the error when he checked his account online and we apologise that there was no explanation provided via this medium. We have taken his comments on board.” A goodwill gift of a bottle of wine has been sent to you as an apology, but you have decided to close your account with Santander anyway – reflecting your unhappiness with this and the higher interest rate available elsewhere.

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