Questions of Cash: Cold-called for a credit card, then turned down

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Q. I was cold-called persistently by Abbey, until I eventually took a call from a woman with a strong accent, who phoned on a very bad line from a call centre in Bangalore, India.

Q. I was cold-called persistently by Abbey, until I eventually took a call from a woman with a strong accent, who phoned on a very bad line from a call centre in Bangalore, India. She offered me a 0 per cent deal on a credit card, but we had a lot of difficulty understanding each other. Two days later, I received a letter from Abbey turning me down for a card. I am middle aged, a higher-rate taxpayer with a clean credit record, several existing credit cards and am a shareholder in several companies. So why reject me? And why insult me when I never wanted the card in the first place? I have held savings with Abbey in the past, but will never do so again.
GB, London.

A. Abbey National apologises for the poor service you have received. A spokeswoman for the bank says: "It is not our intention to solicit applications from individuals who do not wish to apply for a credit card.

"Abbey takes any complaints regarding poor standard of customer service very seriously and we have taken steps to educate the specialist involved to make sure this incident is not repeated."

Abbey advises that its credit cards are issued through a partnership with MBNA. Our interpretation of events is that you should try to avoid feeling slighted by the rejection. The card issuer probably concluded that the fact that you already hold other credit cards - perhaps others issued by MBNA - and that you are unlikely to use a credit card as a form of borrowing, means that it will not earn much profit from you as a customer.

Your experience backs up the concerns many people expressed with the transfer of call centres away from the UK and we are keen to hear if other readers have similar stories. We might be able to embarrass banks into improving their service standards.

Q. We received a letter from Barclays Bank offering compensation for a mis-sold endowment. We phoned in March 2004 to advise that we had received a discounted mortgage for part of the period in question, which might have reduced the compensation payable to us. But we have not received any more communications from them.
D&EY, Bristol

A. Barclays accepts that because of a high volume of customer queries it has failed to respond promptly to your communication. You should have now received your full compensation, in excess of £11,900.

Q. I have been charged a late payment fee of £5 by Selfridges, the department store, as I did not pay the minimum amount due on its store card account by the end of July. But I did not receive a statement in July. There is no mention in the original terms and conditions that they are entitled to charge a late payment fee.
DP, London.

A. Creation Financial Services, which operates Selfridges account cards, says that it did send a statement to you in July and cannot explain why you did not receive this. It adds that the contract terms do specify that it is allowed to recover reasonable expenses for amounts due. As a gesture of goodwill it will write off the £5.

Q. Four years ago I separated from my wife and moved in to a flat with my girlfriend and her joint-owning brother. After six months I bought her brother's share and became a joint owner. I have not yet signed over my joint ownership of the old house my wife still lives in, and though still not divorced, I have no need for my share. Where do I stand on capital gains when either the house or the flat is eventually sold?
RR, London.

A. Glenn Martin, a senior tax manager at the accountant Moore Stephens, says you should make an election to declare that the flat is your main residence, giving you exemption from capital gains tax (CGT) on that property. If you and your wife sell your former house, then you will become liable for CGT on your share of the increased value since you separated.

But you can claim a further exempt period of the last three years of ownership, available where a property has previously been the main residence.

"On disposal you would need to calculate the overall capital gain arising, then deduct allowable expenses, professional fees for example, on purchase or sale before deducting indexation and/or taper relief," says Mr Martin. "It is then necessary to time apportion the gain between any exempt periods and chargeable periods to arrive at the gain, if any, which remains liable to CGT, at your marginal tax rate for the tax year in which contracts are exchanged."

If, say, you owned the house for 10 years, lived in it as your main residence for six years and then lived in the second property for four years, then you would only be liable for CGT on your share of one tenth of the increase in value, against which you could set your annual CGT exemption which currently stands at £8,200. "If you were to gift your share to your separated wife, then the position could be more complicated and you should seek further advice," he adds.

* If you have questions, write to Questions of Cash, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail cash@independent.co.uk. We can reply only to letters published. Please send copies, not originals.

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