Questions of cash: Beware mobile cashback siren calls
Saturday 22 March 2008
Q. In February last year, I agreed to an "Automatic Cash Redemption Tariff" with O2, which was sold to me by Carphone Warehouse. The terms were that half my monthly bill, on a £25 monthly tariff, would be refunded every four months if I kept to the terms of the agreement, paying in full every month. My bill is paid by direct debit and has always been paid in full. I did not receive any documentation about the offer and I made several telephone calls trying to claim the cash back, but received conflicting advice. Letters and emails I sent have not been answered. Ofcom tells me that the problem is not uncommon. How can I get this settled? MT, Chessington.
After our intervention, Carphone Warehouse has now settled the refund in full, having eventually provided you with clear information on how to claim.
Q. In March last year,I entered into two mobile phone contracts with Simply3G. I was promised a full cashback deal on two contracts of £35 a month, with 3 as the network provider. I paid promptly every month and sent back the bills to claim the cashbacks in September, November and January. I received an email promising early payment, and then I was told that the cheques must have been lost in the post and would be reissued. Then I range again to find that the phone lines were no longer operative. Looking on the internet, it seems that Simply3G owes a lot of people money. JP, by email.
Your concerns are justified. Since you wrote to us, Simply Communications UK Ltd – which traded as Simply3G – has called in interim liquidators to close down the company. Customers owed money through cashback offers should send claims to the liquidators, Meston Reid & Co in Aberdeen, using a form on the website (www.simply3g.co.uk). It is unlikely that claims will be met in full, although the liquidators say there are assets and a continuing income – but if all customers due cashback claim, the debts would be "huge". Mobile phone cashback deals are a constant problem for consumers, not least because several small retailers have gone bust without meeting their cashback liabilities. Network providers are not liable for the guarantees entered into by the retailers, and we've never come across an occasion where they have met the cashback promises made by retailers to sign up customers. It is sensible only to use mobile phone retailers likely to be around for a while; usually, that means using the larger companies and avoiding the small retailers who operate only on the internet.
Q. In April last year, I closed my Alliance & Leicester account. I destroyed my unused card, unused chequebook and all log-on details as instructed. But in December, I was contacted by A&L to say I was £89.38 overdrawn. I tried to find out why, but couldn't as I no longer had the necessary PIN to talk to anyone at the bank. I went to my branch to complain and was told that unless I cleared the balance shown, I would pay an additional £5 fee per day. Very reluctantly, I paid off what was now a £140 overdraft and lodged a complaint. I was told I would hear within eight working days. Instead, in January I received a letter saying A&L was closing my account. Phone calls were not returned. In February, I had a letter of apology, saying it was enclosing £25, which was not enclosed, and saying that £79.29 would be refunded – but as I no longer have an account with A&L, I don't know where this has gone. I want a refund of the £140 and compensation for amazingly poor customer service. MB, Winchester.
A&L accepts you did request account closure in April and that your request was ignored owing to "human error". This led to an "under funding fee" being applied, which is charged when a Premier Current Account contains less than £500. This led to the account being shown as overdrawn and further charges being applied. When you made the £140 payment, this actually took your account balance to £50.65 in credit. But further fees were then applied – even though A&L wrote to you to say it was closing your account. These, in turn, led to a new set of under funding fees of £125 being applied. By now, the balance was £79.29 overdrawn, which is the sum that was credited to your account. However, the credited sum was also wrong, as it failed to take into account the £140 you paid into your account in order to, as you thought, clear it and close it. Alliance & Leicester is now sending you a cheque for £215, representing that £140, the £25 that was promised but not paid, and another £50 as a gesture of goodwill. Words fail us.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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