Questions of cash: An unwanted wrinkle - paying for beauty products that were sent back


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The Independent Online

Q. In August last year, I ordered a free trial of a Dead Sea Beauty Kit, paying just the postage. As soon as I received it, I found in the small print that I could be entering into a never-ending and costly auto-refill arrangement. I returned it unopened within 14 days.

The terms and conditions promised that I would not be charged anything further and the transactions would be terminated. As requested, I sent proof of postage as a scanned image attached to an email.

Then I discovered that my MasterCard had been charged £59.95. After numerous challenges by email, I was told the company had changed suppliers since my order was placed and the new one could only make the refund to a Visa card. I duly supplied my account number, but I did not receive a refund and on one occasion I received a request for proof of postage.

I was advised that I would not be receiving a refund because the proof of posting had been sent after the prescribed period. I believe the company behind it has gone by the name DS Marketing Ltd in London. Can anything be done? BD, Southampton.

A. Earlier this year, DS Marketing of London was found by the Advertising Standards Authority to have breached the advertising code of conduct because it was unable to prove claims that the Dead Sea products could remove wrinkles caused by ageing. DS Marketing blamed its "affiliates" for the problems.

We made repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact DS Marketing to discuss both its products and your complaint. We were also unsuccessful in our efforts to contact the US supplier. You paid using a BHS MasterCard, which is issued and administered by Barclaycard. We therefore contacted Barclaycard to request a refund of the £59.95 – which they have agreed. Barclaycard has credited your account and issued a chargeback to the supplier.

Temporary cover used for three days cost £159

Q. On 15 September I asked John Lewis Car Insurance to add my new car to my existing policy. I asked to keep my existing car covered for 30 days to allow time to sell it. I was told this had to be done in two stages. First I had to add my new car to the policy for an additional premium of £92.86, including a £20 fee.

Then I had to obtain cover for my old car, which for 30 days cost £159. I felt mugged as the premium for the whole year for my old car was only £192.32. I was told this is what the underwriters charge and John Lewis is unable to do anything about it. I sold my old car three days after the revised policy came into effect and requested a refund, but I was advised that no refunds are paid on this type of policy. AN, Romford.

A. John Lewis insists that its actions are in line with normal industry practice. However, it has agreed to refund the premium for the unused cover.

Kieran Hartigan, head of products at John Lewis Insurance, said: "We review all claims on a case-by-case basis and while temporary cover is not always refundable, as a gesture of goodwill we will offer [the reader] a pro-rata refund for the days following the sale of the vehicle, on receipt of his temporary cover note." John Lewis is to refund you £143.10.

Q. A few years ago our small business took out a contract with British Gas to supply gas at what was a decent price at that time. Since then the tariffs have become very poor value, with the standing charge now three times higher than that of other suppliers. I tried to change recently, but was advised that I could not move until August 2014. It seems that we are tied into a two-year rolling contract and we are stuck with this. KY, Yorkshire.

A. British Gas insists that you have been sent yearly renewal notices and it is because you failed to respond to these that your contract has been automatically renewed each time for a further year.

Your existing contract is due to expire on 15 October next year and you need to contact British Gas if you want this not to be renewed.

However, the company is now ending the auto-renewal of energy supply contracts. A spokeswoman said: "Increasing numbers of our small business customers have told us that they don't like the way the energy industry automatically moves them on to new contracts, so we've decided we will lead the way and put an end to this practice for our customers."

Ofgem is currently looking at whether the automatic renewal of energy supply contracts to small businesses should be banned.

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