Questions of cash: A&L penalised my parish's pensioners

Q. I have been penalised £210 by Alliance & Leicester for being £9 overdrawn. The money was in a current account with no overdraft facility used by my church for the parish pensioners' holiday, and I accidentally went overdrawn by £9.47. The problem emerged while I was on holiday – I came back to letters informing me of two charges of £25 each. When I spoke to customer services, I was told I would be billed for a further 32 days at £5 a day. Communication was made worse by the postal strike delaying notification of having gone overdrawn until I was away. A&L says that as a result of the test case on overdraft charges it is obliged to make the charges and cannot exercise discretion. TL, Liverpool.

A. The waiver was put in place by agreement between the Financial Services Authority and the major high street banks – including Alliance & Leicester – in July last year. It aimed to provide greater consistency as to which customers had charges for unauthorised overdrafts refunded, and applies until the test case is heard. The waiver explicitly states that the circumstances of any customer with "genuine financial difficulty" must be reviewed without waiting for the outcome of the court case. Your situation caused financial difficulty for your parishioners, and should have been considered without reference to the waiver. A&L accepts that your situation was unfortunate and has refunded your charges in full.

Q. Until early December I had a current account with Abbey, which I terminated after two months of continual problems trying to get my debit card renewed. My new bank set up an account for me, but Abbey has not transferred my credit balance of £2,362.90. Repeated efforts at resolving the problem by phoning the bank's premium-rate call centre have been unsuccessful. DS, London.

A. Regular readers will know that you are one of many Abbey customers who have had difficulty in getting debit cards renewed. Abbey sent you a cheque for the full balance by special courier in time for Christmas, and has sent you a further £150 to apologise for your inconvenience.

Q. A British Gas customer who couldn't get their final bill before they moved out was given £500 compensation thanks to your help (Questions of Cash, 24 November). We have also had difficulty getting a final bill. Can you get us this compensation as well? VD, London.

A. Sadly not – and neither did the other reader we helped. There was a misunderstanding and the previous reader's bill was cut to £500, not cut by £500. Your compensation is similar. Your final bill should have been £543.16 and is being cut to £500. Our apologies for the confusion.

Q. I invested my savings in a Tessa run by Flemings, which was later taken over as a Tessa-only ISA by JP Morgan. It decided to transfer its Tessa accounts to the Cater Allen private bank. The result of this is that I am receiving an extremely poor 4.2 per cent interest. When I said I wanted to transfer to a better-paying Tessa-only ISA I was told I would lose my tax-exempt status. Is this correct? ET, Cranborne

A. We initially put your concerns to JP Morgan, who declined to comment as it had transferred the administration of your account to the Abbey-owned Cater Allen. However, the interest rate you are receiving is actually 5.25 per cent – it appears you misread the literature. You are now content with the rate you are receiving. But to answer your original question – yes, you can transfer a Tessa-only ISA (TOISA) to another provider. You would need to find a different provider offering a better rate, check what penalty (if any) you would have to pay your existing provider and arrange with your new provider to open an account. The new provider will undertake the administration. You must not close your existing account yourself, or you risk losing your tax-exempt status. Happily, you are now satisfied without the need to transfer providers.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; cash@independent.co.uk

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