Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. Scottish Power has been reported as putting up its electricity prices by 10 per cent from 1 August 2011. I checked the increases to my tariffs and according to my calculations, there will actually be rises of 26 per cent on the first 225,000 units used; 45 per cent extra on day units; and 57 per cent extra on night units. I am annoyed. JR, by email.

A. It seems that you are right. A spokeswoman for Scottish Power says: “The price increases that were announced on 7 June quoted averages across all supply areas of Britain, for our standard products across all payment methods. These figures are correct. Every affected customer will receive an individual communication with at least 30 days advanced notice of the price changes taking effect. This particular online tariff [used by the reader] offered around 10 per cent discounts previously on standard Direct Debit Dual Fuel Prices, but unfortunately these prices had to increase. Due to the nature of [the reader’s] individual account he previously benefitted from a 29 per cent discount against our standard domestic two rate electricity prices. The product was a limited online discounted offer, and will still track 2 per cent below standard direct debit prices.” As a result of our enquiry on your behalf, Scottish Power has contacted you to suggest that you move to a different tariff that will now be cheaper than your existing tariff. It suggests that other customers also review whether they are still on the best tariffs for their personal circumstances.

Q. I was booked to fly from Rome to Glasgow Prestwick on 24 May this year with my elderly parents on a Ryanair flight.  Due to volcanic ash the flight was cancelled.  We were instead put on a flight to Stansted, arriving at 2410 and were left without assistance.  We booked into a family room in the nearest airport hotel and went to the Ryanair desk the next morning.  We were advised that Ryanair was unable to fly us back on the 25th.  We were further advised that we could either stay another night in the hotel and fly home on the 26th, or make our own way home by taxi or hire car and claim from Ryanair, making sure all receipts were kept.  I hired a car and drove home that day and then submitted a claim to Ryanair for the hotel accommodation, hire car and meal expenses, as requested.  I have received payment for the hire car and meals, but not for the hotel. GF, by email.

A. The balance of your expenses claim has now been approved. Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said: “Unfortunately, in May, airline passengers were once again unnecessarily inconvenienced by the regulatory overreaction by incompetent boffins to Icelandic volcanic eruptions.  Ryanair received a huge volume of correspondence following this disruption and we are pleased that this passenger received a prompt response and payment.  However, due to an administration error this passenger’s hotel accommodation was wrongly excluded from repayment and a further refund will now be issued.  Ryanair apologises to this passengers for any inconvenience caused.”

Q.  I am trying to plan my finances and I want to get an idea of what is happening, and what will happen, on the sterling v. euro exchange rate.  We are seeing a serious crisis in the eurozone, with a threat of the collapse of the euro, yet sterling has weakened from €1.24 to €1.11 in the last year.  Why is this and should we expect a rebound, or continued decline in sterling against the euro in the coming months?  JR, Belfast.

A. The Centre for Economics and Business Research has predicted that the eurozone is likely to collapse within the next two years. Tim Ohlenburg, its senior economist, responds to your question: “Exchange rates – for example, ‘sterling against the euro in the coming months’ – are inherently volatile in the short-run and very difficult to forecast. As far as recent shifts are concerned, a relatively stronger economic performance of several large continental economies and a resulting increase in the eurozone-UK interest rate differential have been major factors.”

Q. I recently reviewed my credit card statement and discovered several transactions with Amazon that I did not make, for e-vouchers, digital downloads and a couple of items that were delivered to addresses that were not mine. I contacted my credit card issuer, NatWest, which cancelled the card, registered the fraud and recompensed me. When I called Amazon to find out what had happened, it became clear that someone had created a fake email address and set up a new account using my card number. I don’t know where they got this from. The person then ordered over £600 of electronic goods and services, I think to addresses in Eastern Europe. I want to know why Amazon’s fraud protection system did not prevent this from happening, but Amazon refuses to discuss this with me. MR, by email.

A. Amazon also declines to discuss this with us. A spokesman for Amazon says: “We have an effective fraud detection system and, in order to ensure the highest levels of security, we would not discuss any specifics.” As your loss has been fully refunded by your bank, there is no more that we can do to assist.

Q. In April 1976, my wife and I took out an insurance policy with the British National Life Insurance Society Limited.  I am unable to establish contact with this entity. Can you help me please, so that I may put my affairs in order. JL, Harrogate.

A. The correct name of the policy issuer was actually British National Life Assurance. This was taken over by Cannon Assurance, which in turn became part of the Lincoln Financial Group and this was bought in 2009 by Sun Life Financial of Canada – which is now responsible for your policy. Details on how you can claim on an old British National Life policy are published on the Sun Life Financial of Canada website, at

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