Ask Sindie: 'My new cards went round the globe and back'

The trials of replacing stolen plastic... and when solicitors have second thoughts


Q: I am at my wits' end over my Nationwide building society credit card account.

My bag was stolen in Lewisham, south London, recently and I had to cancel all my credit and debit cards. No fraudulent transactions took place, but I have had huge problems replacing my cards and getting my online banking facility to work properly again.

It took two weeks for me to get a replacement debit card, and my credit card still hasn't been sorted out - I can't access the account details on my home computer.

And the direct debit from my bank account to pay my credit card bill has yet to be reinstated.

I have made several visits to Nationwide's Lewisham branch and sent emails to Nationwide via its secure website but have heard nothing. Can you help?

AB, via email

A: Your case shows how a single moment of misfortune can lead to weeks of woe. But, after some investigation by Sindie, it seems that not all the hazards you had to negotiate in your quest to get your accounts restored were necessarily the fault of Nationwide.

The first problem was your use of a different first name on your various accounts to the one used to sign your emails. This meant Nationwide could not easily locate your accounts.

Your new Flexaccount debit card did take a while to reach you, but Nationwide says it tells customers that a replacement card can take up to 10 working days - and the card did arrive within that limit.

The credit card proved more problematical. Your registered address for this card is in New Zealand, where you spend half of each year. Nationwide explains that, for security reasons, its processing centre is not able to send replacement cards overseas.

Cards are therefore sent to the holder's local UK branch and, accordingly, yours was sent to Lew-isham. Unfortunately, an industrious Nationwide staff member then looked up your registered address and dispatched the card to New Zealand before you could come in to fetch it.

When this mistake was realised, the replacement card had to be cancelled and yet another ordered.

Because you did not want to have to collect the card from the branch - another lengthy trip for you - this new card is to be sent to your UK home address.

As for being locked out from your credit card details, this is down to discrepancies between the addresses on your current and credit card accounts. Nationwide's computer did not recognise the two accounts as belonging to the same holder, so did not display them simultaneously.

Nationwide says it has rectified this, and now you should be able to view both accounts online.

Finally - phew! - the direct debit to pay off your credit card bill has at last been reinstated. This problem arose due to the switching of the payment order from the first replacement credit card (the one that accidentally went to New Zealand) to the second.

It just took a while to catch up. Two payments to Halifax went awry in the meantime but have since been sorted out.

Your account should now be working smoothly.

Q: During the summer I purchased a house, at which time my solicitor issued a statement to clarify the balance that I needed to settle to complete the purchase. This included the deposit, legal fees, disbursements et al.

I paid the balance at the time of completion. Now, some eight weeks later, my solicitors have written to me with an amended completion statement. They are asking for a further payment of around £150.

It seems that the additional money relates to their costs for obtaining local authority searches, for which their original estimate was incorrect.

Are they entitled to come back to me requesting more money in this way?

DR, via email

A: Solicitors' charges have always been a bit of a grey area because some of the costs quoted at the outset are usually estimates, and solicitors will not know exactly how much they have to pass on in charges until they have actually undertaken the work.

However, your complaint hinges on a slightly different question - the stage at which these costs were firmed up and presented to you for payment.

The Law Society Regulation Board - soon to be renamed the Solicitors Regulation Authority - says that the final figures should certainly be clear by the time you receive your completion statement.

It therefore looks as if your solicitor might have missed his chance to adjust his charges if he got his sums wrong, and you could have grounds for a complaint if he tries to come after you with an extra bill as an afterthought.

Go back to the firm involved and take the matter up with the person authorised to handle complaints. All solicitors' firms have to have a complaints handling procedure.

If the problem is not dealt with to your satisfaction, your next port of call should be the Law Society's consumer complaints service.

If you need help from our consumer champion, write to Annie Shaw at The Independent on Sunday, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email sindie@independent.co.uk. We cannot return documents, give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given

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