Questions of Cash: A gas distributor's mistake cost me the chance to switch supplier


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The Independent Online

Q. I have been unable to resolve an issue with Npower that has been ongoing since last October. Due to a false meter registration I have been unable to switch suppliers. As a result I have missed out on a warm home discount offer of £140 and a fixed price offer, which ran out in November.

I will now be affected by a price rise of 10 per cent. I also missed out on a direct debit discount of £90 because of changes Npower made to my contract in October. When I call Npower on average I wait on hold for 20 minutes. This cost me an additional £23 in call charges. I have been stuck on Npower's expensive tariff for months now through no fault of my own. The total cost to me is over £300. I received a “final offer” of compensation of £200, which is derisory. EW, London.

A. Npower has looked at this again. As a result, it has come up with a revised offer of £400, which you have accepted. A spokesman for Npower says: “His gas meter information was incorrect in the national database. I'm pleased to say this is now all resolved and we've given [the reader] £400 as a gesture of goodwill to cover the difference in charges between Npower and his new supplier, which he's happy with.” Apparently the reason for your difficulties was that your meter was recorded by the gas distributor as being a pre-payment meter, when it was actually a credit meter.

Telephone fraud calls for action

Q. A fraudster opened a telephone account with EE in my name. I spoke to EE, pointing out that it was not me. It said the account would be investigated and cancelled and I would be contacted. When I heard nothing, I wrote to EE on 28 October. On 17 December EE sent me a cheque for £46 closing my account. I wrote to EE on 14 January saying as I had never had an account, I was not entitled to the money. On 17 January EE sent me a letter threatening legal action if I did not pay its demand for £46. I sent EE a cheque on 27 January, returning the money sent to me on 17 December. EE clearly received my letter because my cheque has cleared my account. None of my letters has received a reply. KB, Hertfordshire.

A. EE apologises. It has now closed the fraudulent account and promises you will receive no further correspondence related to this. The company has notified the credit reference agencies of the fraud and, as a result, there are no adverse entries on your credit records. A spokeswoman for EE says: “Due to an administrative error, our usual process was not followed and we apologise to [the reader] for any inconvenience.”

It pays to compare your car insurance quote

Q. I have had a car insurance policy with Frizzell for several years. I fear that I may have been significantly overcharged over that period. In February I received a letter offering a policy renewal for £489.40. I phoned for a revised quote to exclude my wife, as she does not use the car for business use. The premium was reduced by £20. I was then told that I was within a group policy for a household for several cars, although I have only ever had one car. I was told this might have been the only policy available when I took it out. I was then offered a new quote of £342.03. Why was I never told about this before? Jo, Essex.

A. Frizzell is a brand of the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society (LV=). A spokeswoman says: “We write to our customers at their renewal to ask them to call us so we can see if any of our new products might be better suited to their needs. Some customers who ask for a quote at renewal on our current new business policy see a reduction in price, while some see an increase. [The reader] had not contacted us to ask for a new quote previously so we were unable to find out if a different policy was suitable for his needs.

"When [the reader] called us to make the amendment to his policy, we offered him a quote for a new policy. The premium quoted on the new policy was significantly cheaper than the renewal premium he had received on his existing policy. This is, in part, because the policy has a higher excess and excludes foreign use cover, which was previously included. We believe that we offered [the reader] a fair premium for his motor insurance policy. However, our agent gave confusing information to [the reader] when he called. For this we apologise.” We understand that you are unhappy with this explanation and will lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service. It is always sensible to seek comparison quotes for insurance policies when they come up for renewal.

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