Questions of Cash: A five-year guarantee on a mattress has turned into a 'goodwill gesture'


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The Independent Online

Q. I purchased a mattress in June 2010. The mattress cost £329 and came with a five-year guarantee. Initially the mattress was used infrequently on a guest bed.

When my son moved home and started using it we noticed four bars of metal could be felt through the covering and the covering started to detach from the sides. The retailer inspected the mattress and offered us a replacement or £150, as a "goodwill gesture".

So what does a five-year guarantee actually mean? The replacement will only have a guarantee for the remainder of the original guarantee – a year and a half. HL, by email.

A. Citizens Advice's Pol Callaghan responds: "When you buy a product with a guarantee, you have two levels of protection. First, you have statutory rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, that apply regardless of any guarantee or warranty. Secondly, you have the guarantee.

Whether a mattress is of satisfactory quality and is fit for purpose will normally be related to normal wear and tear. The offer of a replacement has been made as a "goodwill gesture", so it is not clear if the retailer has accepted that the mattress was not of satisfactory quality, or was not fit for purpose.

In any event, a retailer can normally offer a remedy by means of repair, replacement or refund. However, the guarantee may require a full refund at any time within the five-year period if the product has only been subjected to normal wear and tear (this depends on the terms of the guarantee)." If you feel the retailer has not complied with these obligations, you can contact either Questions of Cash or Citizens Advice to pursue the matter further.

The penalties of powering down an account

Q. I left Npower, my dual gas and electricity supplier, in August 2013, paying £173 to settle the account, including early termination penalties. Unfortunately I didn't cancel my direct debit and Npower debited my account for £15.01 in February. My online account shows a zero balance and that it is closed, so I don't know if the charge was correct. Npower has been unable to satisfy my enquiry. JC, Ayrshire.

A. Npower has investigated this and issued a refund. A spokesman explains: "There was a slight delay in sending [the reader's] final gas bill and we have sent him a cheque for £25 to say sorry for this." In addition, you have received a letter to collect a further £30 from a Post Office branch to refund the early termination penalty.

Who oversees cheques from overseas?

Q. In December last year I phoned my bank, Santander, asking how long it would take to clear a foreign bank cheque and was told six working days. On 20 December I deposited the cheque at my branch. I was then told it would take six to eight weeks to clear. I complained I had been wrongly informed and was given £60 compensation. At the end of the six weeks deadline, 14 February, the cheque had still not cleared. I complained again and was given further compensation of £170. I am now told there is no guarantee of when the cheque will clear. I need the money and this has resulted in me being evicted, overdrawn, unable to pay bills and unable to take my kids on holiday at half term. BL, Cambridgeshire.

A. Santander says that when your cheque was deposited it was done so on a "collection basis", which means the value could only be credited to your account "on receipt of the funds from the remitting bank". It was drawn on RHB Bank Berhad, based in Malaysia. Santander says that it has not had cooperation from the bank. "Messages were sent asking the bank for an update as no funds were received," says a spokeswoman for Santander. She explains there are two methods for processing international cheques: "Negotiation, where we credit the customer's account without needing to receive confirmation of clearance from the bank on which the cheque was drawn, and collection, where we send the cheque to the bank where it originated from, requesting payment."

Where the collection system is used, processing usually takes two to eight weeks. We understand that you have now recovered the cheque and intend to find alternative means to process it. Our view is that you should go back to the cheque issuer, establish the reason the bank has not honoured the cheque and obtain alternative means of payment. Santander's spokeswoman adds: "While we are sympathetic, we cannot accept that any error has been made and feel that [the reader] has been amply compensated for any mis-information or service issues having already received £230 of goodwill."

Questions of cash cannot give individual advice. But we'll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at:

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