Questions Of Cash: 'Am I covered for losing £4,000 paid by cheque?'

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The Independent Online

Q. I have paid more than £4,000 to an organisation called the Immigration Unit. I paid by cheques drawn on Lloyds and Halifax. I have found out that it has ceased trading. Are payments by cheques covered in the same way as credit cards? KH, by email.

A.The Immigration Unit was based in Egham in Surrey. Its phone number is no longer operational, nor its website. It has been reported as being the trading name of Immigration Consultants Ltd, of Chislehurst in Kent – though we are unable to confirm this. Immigration Consultants is overdue in filing its accounts with Companies House and there is a proposal to strike it off. There seems no prospect for you to recover your money unless there is enough left in the business to pay off creditors. Our guess is there will not be. Unfortunately for you, there is no chance of recovering your loss from Lloyds or Halifax. Payments of over £100 made by credit card are covered by the Consumer Credit Act. There is joint liability between the trader and the card issuer because the payment is made by credit. When you pay by cheque, the transaction is treated in the same way as paying by cash – the banks do not share liability.

Q. I am a pensioner and a small shareholder of Aviva. In the past I received twice yearly Notional Tax Vouchers in May and November. Three of these did not arrive in 2008 and 2009. I contacted Aviva – on a premium rate number – several times and after some exchange of letters I was given the figures for November 2008 over the telephone and told the other missing figures were not available on the screen.

A letter followed from them requesting a cheque for £13.80 in payment for releasing the figures. I am reluctant to spend money in this way, as being a very small investor with Aviva this sum is probably more than the dividend. Nor do I see why I should pay to receive information that I am due and have not received. I have communicated with HM Revenue & Customs, which tells me that it is my responsibility to have the information. ZY, by email.

A. Aviva explains that administration of shareholder information is outsourced to Equiniti. According to Equiniti, its records hold your correct details and you were sent all the notional tax vouchers. On this basis, you were asked for payment for duplicates. However, Aviva concedes that "maybe" you have "not had a 100 per cent perfect service". You have therefore been sent the copies free of charge on a goodwill basis.

Q. Lloyds admits it failed to make a correct international transfers of funds. It promised to send me a full and detailed response to my complaint in July by 4 September. It hasn't done so. SC, by email.

A. Lloyds sent you the promised written response to your complaint on 4 September – clearly it was impossible for you to receive it by that date. It was then delayed in the post, it seems. Lloyds' explanation for its mistake in making the international transfer is very simple – "human error". It has credited your account with £30 and refunded the charges as a gesture of goodwill.

Q. I registered with Advantage HGV for HGV driver training. It asked for an upfront payment of £1,099, which was more than I could afford. We agreed I would pay by installments, paying an initial £500. But the company took £1,099 from my credit card. It said its records showed I had agreed to pay the whole amount straight off. I lost confidence in the company and cancelled the contract. It issued a refund, but subject to a 40% cancellation fee, amounting to £439.60. This seems a ridiculous amount to charge for two phone calls and a welcome pack that was returned to them. PD, Derby.

A. Advantage HGV explains it made bookings for lessons and a test when you lodged your contract and has had to make payments for these. To fully refund you would leave it with a loss. It stresses you cancelled after the seven days in which you are allowed to cancel without penalty under distance selling regulations. It is, as a gesture of goodwill, willing to make a further refund of £100. You have rejected this and sought a chargeback from your credit card issuer. This request is not accepted by Advantage HGV. We spent several weeks unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a solution between yourself and Advantage HGV. We understand the matter will now go to arbitration through the card payment intermediaries.

Q. I took out a combined TV, phone and broadband contract with Sky to commence in May this year. The installation of Sky+ TV went ahead as planned, but not the phone and broadband. We had been told we could retain our old phone number, but then received a letter saying we would have to accept a new one. When I queried this, I was told that to keep our old number we would have to cancel our order and make a new one, but it would take 30 days before a new order could be actioned. I did this, but the phone and broadband service has not been installed. NB, Bristol.

A. You wrote in June and we took the matter up with Sky. At the end of July, you told us you expected the matter to be resolved in mid-August. We have now had confirmation from Sky that the matter has been resolved – but it failed to provide, as requested, an explanation for the problem, how it was resolved, or why it required you to cancel the original order. Sky has handled your complaint and our enquiry on your behalf without apparent urgency, raising questions – not for the first time – about the quality of the company's customer services.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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