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Questions Of Cash: Bank's double refund was cause of confusion


Q. Our daughter visited India last year to stay with the family of a friend. She enquired about travel insurance through several providers, including our bank, HSBC. Two days before she was to leave the UK we received the travel insurance details from HSBC and paid the premium. When we told our daughter, she explained that she had refused the quote from our bank and accepted a better alternative. We told HSBC that we felt misled, as it knew our daughter had not accepted its offer. HSBC refused to refund the premium until our daughter cancelled the insurance, which she did and the premium was refunded.

In September we received a letter from the bank's debt collection department claiming an amount the same as the cancelled insurance premium. We replied, suggesting a possible mistake. Several weeks later we received another letter from our bank giving us seven days from the date of the letter to pay the outstanding debt, otherwise the debt would be handed over to a debt collection agency. We actually received the letter nine days after its date.

Our daughter visited an HSBC branch with all the correspondence and it was agreed there had been a mistake. A week later we received a demand from a debt collection agency acting for the bank. Our daughter went back to the branch and we now have a letter from our bank which states that there is no longer an outstanding debt. But we have lost confidence in HSBC and have not received an apology. AB, by email.

A. The policy was processed by the insurer, Aviva, after you made the payment to HSBC. When it was recognised that your daughter did not want the policy, a refund was processed in November 2010. However, in error this refund was paid twice. Consequently, HSBC was correct in asking for £47.26 – equivalent to the premium – to be refunded. But neither Aviva nor HSBC explained to you why you were being asked to make this payment, nor did the branch staff who spoke to your daughter apparently understand the reason for the demand.

When the problem was recognised by Aviva, the sum was written off – although again you were not notified. HSBC suggests that you may wish to donate the £47.26 to a charity of your choice. It has also sent you a case of wine as an apology. It also apologises for a further mix-up which caused your daughter to be referred to by the wrong surname in a subsequent letter, but confirms that there has been no confusion of records between different customers. HSBC also confirms that there are no negative entries on your credit file, nor those of your daughter.

Q. On 7 November, I rang F&C Investments to sell my All-Share Tracker fund totalling £48,390, to put this into a fixed-rate bond to provide more short-term security. F&C's adviser informed me I would receive a form to sign and return before my money could be released. She explained that the form would take four days to arrive. Almost two weeks later the form arrived, which I signed and returned.

On 30 November, I rang again to ask what had happened to my cheque. I was advised that it had been processed on 24 November and that I should wait until Friday when, if it still had not arrived, the cheque would be replaced. On the Friday I rang back to instruct them to process another cheque as I still had not received it. The original cheque arrived a day later, but was now void. I finally received the replacement cheque on 9 December, which cleared on 15 December – 38 days after selling my fund. I have lost more than a month's interest. AD, Rochdale.

A. F&C has conducted an investigation into the delays. This has established an error by what F&C refers to as a "third party administrator", who failed to adopt the proper procedure to release the payment by failing to issue an initial Form of Renunciation. A client must sign this before payment can be released following the sale of a holding. A second Form of Renunciation was issued a week later, which was the one you signed and returned.

A cheque was issued by first class post within five working days, but was only received by you another nine days later – by which time you had requested a stop be placed on it and the cheque replaced. The replacement cheque was dispatched on 6 December. F&C accepts that its administration agents were responsible for a delay of a week and has therefore apologised and provided a payment of a week's interest to cover this element of your loss.

Q. We have a dispute with Npower about energy supplied between October 2010 and October 2011. I contacted Npower last February asking why we had not been billed. We then received a bill for £304.09 which we paid in full. We also paid the May bill for £89.87. We questioned the estimated bill of £183.06 for September and asked Npower for an accurate reading as we were moving out in October. We took a reading, notified Npower and made a series of calls to try to get a final bill agreed. At the end of October our amended bill arrived for £700.78. We are willing to pay half this bill, but we believe that Npower is unreasonable to ask us to pay more as it has handled our account very badly. TB, by email.

A. Before you raised this with us, Npower offered to write off £100 of the outstanding bill. After we contacted the firm this was raised to £150. It refused to write-off the £350 you requested and we were going to suggest that you refer the matter to the Energy Ombudsman. However, after a further review of your account Npower has now agreed to reduce the amount you owe by £350. The outstanding balance has been recalculated as £782.21, leaving you £432.21 to pay if you accept the revised offer. We suggest that you do so to resolve the matter.

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