Consumer rights: 'The bicycle part I bought online has not arrived. What should I do?'

How to make a claim if an eBay purchase goes sour ... And what happens when someone dies intestate?


Q. On 7 May I bought a part for my bike on eBay. I used PayPal to pay for it.

The seller claims to have sent it on 10 May and to have proof of postage but nothing has arrived. I've checked my nearest postal sorting office and it's not there either. The money has been debited via PayPal. I have requested that either the item be resent or that the money be refunded but the buyer has refused. He or she has offered to send me proof of postage and suggested that I lodge a claim with the post office. The package wasn't sent either registered or insured and the post office tells me that the sender, not me, would be the only person allowed to make a claim. EBay has simply advised I wait for it to come. What redress do I have?

CK

South-west London

A. I have been in touch with the staff at eBay about this and they are very keen to help. An eBay spokesman told me: "People should be reassured that when shopping on eBay, they are covered by our buyer protection policy, provided they are paying by a secure method such as PayPal. If an item doesn't arrive for any reason, we firstly recommend contacting the seller, but if that doesn't work, customers should get in touch and we will review each case. It is up to the seller to ensure that an item arrives safely to the person who bought it. Where an item has been posted, but doesn't arrive, it's the responsibility of the seller to pursue any compensation with the carrier. We have tried to contact the buyer this week to clarify this, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused."

I understand that you have now received a full refund through the eBay resolution centre as the seller was asked to provide proof of postage but was unable to do so. More generally, through the resolution centre you can open a case three days after the estimated delivery date or seven days after making payment, but you must open a case within 45 days of making a payment on an item. If you reach deadlock with the seller, the buyer can escalate the case and eBay personnel will decide in either the buyer's or seller's favour.

***

Q. My mother died recently, and we've searched everywhere for her will without success. There are three of us daughters and we each have a partner and two children. Apart from that there's no other family. My eldest sister is convinced mum made a will but has no idea whether her estate is to be split between us or left to the charities she worked with. We never really talked about that kind of thing. We do know that she owned her house because when my father died everything he owned was left to her. We also know she has some savings and a few small investments. My middle sister is struggling financially and wants a share of the money and the house; I and my eldest sister don't need money but would like the situation resolved quickly. What happens if we can't find the will?

SJ

South London

A. There are rules about how an estate should be divided if there's no will. If you can't find one your sister may be wrong about the existence of one, or perhaps your mother destroyed it and didn't get around to making a new one. If she changed her will after your father died she may have appointed a friend, solicitor or her bank manager as executor. Check with anyone you think might be that person and with all the local solicitors. Given that all her other papers are there it seems likely there is no will and that your mother died intestate. Perhaps she expected that anything she left would simply be split in three equal shares.

If you agree that you've done all you can to find a will, you (or you and your sisters) can appoint a solicitor to sort out your mother's estate, or you can apply for a grant of letters of administration to administer her estate. With a small estate worth less than £5,000, where there's no land, property or shares involved, it may be possible to deal with it without getting a grant. A grant might not be needed if the whole of her estate is held in joint names and passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.

But in your case you will need to apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of letters of administration. Once you get it you become the administrator of the estate. The document is proof to banks and building societies, etc, that you have the authority to access and distribute funds that were held in your mother's name.

If your mother'sassets are worth more than £325,000 (2011-12), inheritance tax is likely to be due at 40 per cent on the amount over this figure. If inheritance tax is due, some or all of this has to be paid before a grant will be issued.

When someone dies without a will, there are rules about who inherits. The first person in line is a spouse or 'civil partner but if there isn't one, the next in line are the children. You and your sisters will inherit everything that remains from the sale of the house and the savings and investments after any debts, funeral expenses and solicitor's fees have been paid. You will get a third each.

The rules are quite complicated but there's more information at direct.gov.uk. When you apply to the Probate Registry you'll find the people working there are very helpful. You'll get the address of your nearest office at hmcourts-service.gov.uk, in the phone directory or ask your nearest advice centre such as a Citizens Advice Bureau. The first step is to agree between you who applies for the grant to administer your mother's estate or whether you all apply together.

www.moneyagonyaunt.com

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