Q. Do I have any chance of claiming back for payment protection insurance policies I had while I was self-employed? I was made to take them out along with several car loans.
I didn't realise that they wouldn't cover me if anything went wrong, but the bank basically said "no insurance, no loan" so I went along with it. I had two sons to bring up, had just divorced and needed a car for my business. The final loan was paid off a few years ago, I can't remember the relevant dates or details and I can't find any paperwork. It's only when all the publicity started that I realised I might have been ripped off.
A. The scale of mis-selling of payment protection insurance is only slowly becoming clear. Millions of PPI policies have been sold along with loans, mortgages and credit cards. There are probably thousands of people in the same boat as you.
In your case you definitely shouldn't have been sold a policy. You were self-employed; you couldn't have made a claim. There are all sorts of other reasons why a policy shouldn't have been sold to someone: they were unemployed or retired when they took out the cover so they couldn't make a valid claim; had an illness that stopped them working; had alternative insurance and weren't asked about it; or were older than the age limit on the policy when they took it out.
If you were told the insurance was compulsory it is likely you can claim too. Lenders can insist that a borrower has PPI, but any company that signs up to the banking code must not insist you take out the insurance with them. It's likely to be cheaper to buy it separately from an independent provider.
This isn't a comprehensive list of people who might have a valid claim. Anyone who has had PPI, or thinks they might have had at some point, should check their paperwork or with the firm that sold them the policy. The internet has a lot of information about PPI and making a claim including from www.moneyadviceservice. org.uk.
If you have paid out money by mistake you usually have six years from the date you discover the mistake to make a claim.
Write down as many of the details of the loans as you can. Send the bank a Data Protection Act demand for all data it holds on your loans and the PPI. This costs you £10 and the bank has to send it to you within 40 days. Then you can make your complaint to the bank and ask for a refund of the PPI payments plus any interest you paid on them. If you don't get anywhere, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service for help or make a claim against the bank through the courts. If they owe you less than £5,000 you can go through the special procedure for small claims in the County Court; you don't need a solicitor.
The FOS won't deal with your complaint until you've gone through all the bank's internal complaints procedures. So you'll have to wait the eight weeks agreed by the banks. Through the FOS you should be returned to the financial position you would have been in if you hadn't taken out the policies, but do your calculations or you could be persuaded to accept an offer from the bank that is lower than you're really owed. You'll find more information at financial-ombudsman.org.uk. If you are offered money back by the bank, hold out for a reasonable amount. They're in the wrong, not you.
Q. I've spent £250 on photos for my daughter's modelling portfolio. We went shopping a few weeks ago, and as we were leaving the store a woman approached saying she was an agent and wanted to sign my daughter for a modelling contract. We were flattered, my daughter was terribly excited and we got sucked in. The agent made arrangements for a photographer to take photos because my daughter would need a portfolio for castings. They cost a lot more than I was led to believe and don't look as professional as I expected. The agent hasn't been in touch, no castings have materialised and it's dawned on us that we were stupid. When I ring the number the woman gave us there's no answer, she never responds to my messages and I don't have an address. Is there anything I can do, or is the money lost?
A. I'm afraid you'll probably have to mark this one down to experience. There's nothing new about this; it's been happening for years. Like you and your daughter, people see a great opportunity. I'm quite surprised you even got the photos.
Even if you found the agent she'd tell you the photos weren't as good as she expected as your daughter isn't as photogenic as she'd hoped, and that she's not right for her prospective customers. How can you dispute that? You'd have to go to court to get your money back and then it's down to a judge to decide if the agent is making fair comment or if the quality of the pictures really isn't what you should expect.
Your daughter may yet have a career as a model, but only go to a reputable agency you can check out fully beforehand. The modelling business isn't regulated and there are people out there who prey on the naive and inexperienced. I suspect this "agent" was a tout for a less than professional photographer who charged you through the nose.