Questions of Cash: ‘We have been left living in sub-zero temperatures’: The Independent


Q. My fiance has a Barclays premier account, for which we pay £20/£25 a month. It includes cover for various things, including boilers and parts.  On 22 November we had a problem with our boiler and called Barclays, which sent out an engineer from another company.  They temporarily fixed it, but had to order parts for a permanent repair.  On 5 December the boiler failed completely and I came home to hot water and steam leaking out and bizarre noises.  We rang the contractors, who said it was because of the parts we needed. But we are in sub-zero temperatures and have spent a fortune on electric heaters. The contractors say the parts were placed on order again as the previous batch were wrongly ordered. They have promised to come back, but by then it will be 5.5 weeks since we had proper heat and hot water at home! LH, London.


A. Barclays admits it let you down. “Barclays strives to provide excellent customer service, however in this case we have fallen short of those high standards,” says a spokesman for the bank. “While the exceptional weather conditions, public holidays, and difficulties obtaining parts from businesses closed over the holiday period have all hampered attempts to help the customer, the simple fact is that it has taken too long in this instance. We have apologised to the customer, as has the contractor. This customer has received an entirely new boiler worth £1700, and accepted an offer to pay both the extra costs of heating over the period, and received £1,000 as a gesture of goodwill.” You are unhappy with the compensation offered, which you point out is £25 per night for you and your partner to stay in a home without basic facilities. But Barclays is not prepared to improve the offer – which, it explains, is being met by the contractor. “This gesture goes far beyond the requirements of the service, which is designed to make the repairs and get the parts necessary to get a boiler running again in an emergency,” says Barclays’ spokesman. He argues that the terms of the contract would have been met by taking the cheaper option of repairing the boiler. Barclays adds that its ‘Home SOS’ service has “performed extremely well under exceptionally testing circumstances” in recent weeks, with 9,000 call-outs, of which 81% were successfully dealt with within four hours of the first contact and most of the rest resolved within four days.


Q. I have recently been the victim of severe identity and bank fraud. I had my laptop stolen a few weeks ago, with the thief able to gain access to my internet banking and personal details. My account was emptied, with transactions totalling £14,000 – my life savings – placed on online betting websites. As my laptop was stolen outside my block of flats, the thief has seemingly used my wireless internet to commit these crimes, making them apparently untraceable. I reported the fraud to my bank, Nationwide, within days, but received a response stating that because someone gained access to my internet banking I must have written down my security details, or told them to someone. This is untrue: I have always kept my security details secret and safe. As the thief has used my personal details, as well as my wireless internet, it seems that it is impossible to find the perpetrator. I have also had a number of fraudulent credit applications made in my name. I understand that under new FSA regulations the onus is now on the banks to prove that customers have been severely negligent or fraudulent. As my laptop was password protected, and had no passwords stored on it, I fail to see how I could have been negligent. MG, Reading.

A. Despite a detailed investigation conducted by Nationwide, it is impossible to understand what has happened here. You insist that you did not write down your passwords, store them on your laptop, or give them to anyone else. You are also certain that you had up-to-date virus protection software installed, which should prevent any information on your computer being copied by anyone who might have hacked into your system. But Nationwide’s investigation determined that the disputed transactions were conducted from your laptop, using your IP address, used the security code on your debit card as well as the full card number and answered all security questions without problem. On this basis, Nationwide is confirming its rejection of your claim. The police are continuing with their own investigation. We suggest that you lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service, to have the case reviewed independently. However, you may find it difficult to persuade FOS to uphold your complaint on the basis of the information provided by Nationwide. Losses from internet fraud have risen significantly in recent times, and banks and building societies have responded by adopting stricter criteria when deciding whether they or their customers should bear the losses. You have sensibly notified credit reference agencies about the fraud.


Q. My house had subsidence some years ago: it was put right and certificates issued. But I have been unable to change insurance companies since, for either building or contents. I have now moved out and my daughter lives there. I have been told by my contents cover provider that I must have landlord and tenants insurance even though my daughter doesn’t pay rent and I’m not a landlord. Other companies won’t give me a quote for contents cover because of the subsidence. Is there a way out of this? LC, Leicester.

A. Bureau Insurance Services – 01424 220110 – specialises in providing policies in circumstances such as these. For a fee of £125, plus VAT, it will conduct a survey of the property and produce a report that it sends to four insurers, offering the best policy on the basis of the quotes it receives. The cost of the insurance depends on the condition of the property and the assessed risk, but will usually be about 10 to 20 per cent higher than the best rate in the market for a similar property without subsidence.


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