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Spend & Save

Consumer Rights: Is it a suit, or just a jacket and some trousers? Sometimes it matters

Paying with a credit card gives you some protection – but only for individual items costing more than £100. See the problem?

Q: I bought my husband a suit for his birthday last month. It was only when we got home that we noticed a tear in the jacket. I took it back, only to discover that at some point in the previous two weeks the shop had closed down. It wasn't a chain, so there's no other branch to take it back to. I'm really annoyed because I don't think the tear can be repaired without showing. It's not just a split seam which I could sew up myself. My daughter suggested that as I paid for the jacket on my credit card and the suit came to £150 in total my credit card company should pay up. I've contacted them and been told there's nothing they can do. NM, Nottinghamshire

A: This may be a question of whether you bought one item, a suit, or a jacket and some trousers which could be sold as two individual items. If you buy an item which costs more than £100, the credit card provider is equally liable under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act with the retailer if something goes wrong. If the retailer can't put things right – because it's gone out of business, for instance – then the credit card provider should. Even if you paid only a small part of the total amount by credit card the same rule applies. (Using your card to pay a small part of the total bill gives you protection, which is worth remembering even if you don't want to put the whole of the bill on your card.) However if you bought two items that together cost more than £100 but each cost less than £100, the card company wouldn't usually be liable. If you bought a suit but explained to the card company, as you did in your email to me, that you used your card to pay for the jacket and paid for the trousers in cash, that may have led them to think you bought two items instead of one. If they've got it wrong, go back and explain the situation clearly. If they're right, look for a company that does invisible mending.


Q: During the summer I ordered a food hamper for a friend's wedding present from a lovely little company. It arrived on time, the contents were terrific and she was delighted. The money went out of my account and I forgot about it. Then about six weeks ago I started getting invoices for the cost of the order as if it had never been paid for. At first they were in my spam box but then appeared in my inbox. I have been in touch with the company and got their assurance that they have been paid. They've sent me a new receipt so I'm fairly happy there isn't going to be another genuine bill. But I've had another invoice. How do I stop this spam from whoever is sending them? Is my bank account in danger, given that I gave my card details to pay the bill originally? It has put me off ordering online. TY, Stevenage

A: Are you sure this isn't just a blip in the firm's invoicing system? If someone else had got your card details you would already have noticed unexplained amounts going missing from your account. Most of the spam of this sort coming through is claiming to be from big firms demanding your details so that your account can be made more secure. Don't open any email from any firm you don't know and trust. If you don't have an account with a particular financial organisation, don't open emails claiming to be from them. No bank will ever ask you for your complete password or security details unless you have contacted them. If you get an email that appears to be from your bank asking for those details, don't reply to it. Call them using a number on your statement or that you have found on an official site. Never call back on a number given on a suspicious email. Never give your details unless you know who you are giving them to.

In this case, call the bank that provides the card you used, tell them what's happened and ask them not to pay out any amount to this firm until you get this sorted out. Talk to the firm again, tell them this is still happening and explain that it is putting you off shopping with them because you don't feel their site is safe. The threat of losing sales will make them tighten up their systems.

In the meantime, if you get any more of these emails, or any others that you are remotely suspicious of, press delete without opening. If it wasn't spam and is really important the firm will contact you again. And only shop through sites of reputable firms that you know are secure.


Q: I moved in with my boyfriend last year but couldn't sell my flat so let it out. The latest couple lived there for six months and gave me notice that they would be moving out at the end of October. They always paid rent a month in advance. At the end of September they rang and said they wouldn't be able to move into the house they were buying until the end of November, and could they stay for an extra four weeks. About two weeks ago I hadn't had the extra month's rent so I went round to collect it, only to discover the flat empty, and some of my things gone too. I don't have a forwarding address. Is there any way I can find out where they've gone? I feel so stupid for trusting them. AK, south London

A: If they're still in your area someone who knows them may spot them, or the electoral register may reveal their new address eventually. However, I think you'll have to put this down to experience.

If they hadn't taken some of your stuff I'd guess they had just found themselves short of the rent money, but taking your belongings makes it seem rather more intentional. In future have a full inventory of everything in the flat and go through it with the tenant before they move in. Take a deposit as well as rent in advance. Hold that in a deposit protection scheme until you're sure all's well before tenants move out, and then repay it.

However, don't forget that you are a landlord and have responsibilities to make sure your tenants are safe and that everything they pay rent for is kept in good condition and works as it should. Get more information about your role as a landlord at www.gov.uk