Questions of Cash: 'Boiler problem' was tracked down to faulty plumbing


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The Independent Online

Q. I have had the same problem with a boiler that does not work as your correspondent DH (Questions of Cash, 19 January). Mine was a Vaillant boiler, supplied and fitted by a local plumber. Since installation, I have had repeated problems.

In November last year the expansion vessel had to be replaced – we had been continually topping up the boiler because of lost pressure. This cost £280. My plumber suggested this action as he has had the same problem with other Vaillant boilers he has installed.

Clearly the boiler was not fit for purpose, or of marketable quality. The boiler is out of warranty, but I believe I should be reimbursed for the cost of the repair. The boiler has been losing pressure since installation, with the rate of loss increasing. I have tried repeatedly to get hold of Vaillant by phone, email and via its website, but without success. VS, Oxford.

A. The problem seems to lie with your plumber, not with the boiler – which may explain why the plumber experienced the same problem previously. It has taken two months to arrange, but Vaillant has very helpfully undertaken a site visit to diagnose the problem.

A spokesman for Vaillant says: "Despite being out of warranty, as a gesture of goodwill Vaillant arranged for one of its engineers to inspect [the reader's boiler] free of charge. The cause of the pressure loss was identified as being a fault within the heating system pipework, unrelated to the boiler itself. [The reader] is now satisfied her boiler is operating as it should and is looking for a new plumber.

"We'd like to take this opportunity to remind homeowners that a boiler is just one component of a central heating system and is often unfairly assumed responsible for any problems. However, we appreciate most people are not heating engineers so we recently joined with the Plain English Campaign to publish a helpful guide to boiler jargon, which readers may wish to download from"

We have offered to contact the plumber to suggest he refunds the repair costs, but you say that as you know the plumber well, and have used him for several years, you will speak to him.

Q. I had a problem last year with British Gas sending me a bill for £305 for a property I had moved out from in 2008. You arranged (Questions of Cash, 26 January) for the bill to be cancelled. But now I have had a further bill from British Gas for £1,614. Like the previous bill that was cancelled, it covers the period 4 January 2008 to 31 August 2010. RC, Glasgow.

A. Previously British Gas explained that its billing system had not been set up correctly, which led to you being billed for gas and electricity for a period of several years after you moved out. You were unaware of the bill until you were contacted by debt collectors.

Chris Mills of British Gas's customer relations office says: "It appears that the occupiers, who moved in some time after [the reader], were also disputing the dates and readings on their account. By amending the details on their account, this unfortunately also affected [the reader's] account.

"There appears to be a gap of two years where we don't know who the occupier of the property was and the adviser, who has changed the dates on [the reader's] account to cover these two years, clearly hasn't read my notes. I will be providing feedback to them regarding this issue, as clearly this is not acceptable. To rectify this I've now written off this balance of £1,613.63 and will be emailing [the reader] to confirm that the balance has been cleared."

Q. I have had telephone banking from day one with Northern Bank, now Danske – probably for 20 years. But now I am having problems. When I call the 24-hour banking service from my landline, before I even get to the end of my customer number a voice tells me that this is not the right number. The customer account number is allocated by the bank. This began happening in November last year.

 I have made several visits to my branch, and signed new agreements with the bank, but no one seems able to resolve my problem. But strangely I can access my telephone banking service using my mobile phone. I have asked BT if the problem is with the landline, but they have checked this and say there are no faults and the line is working perfectly. I don't want to use the mobile as the service has an 0845 number, which is expensive. AH, Lisburn.

A. This may be a coincidence, but your problems began last November, which is when Northern Bank was rebranded to use the name of its parent company, Danske Bank.

A spokeswoman for Danske, which operates in Northern Ireland, apologises and says: "It is important to us that customers can access their bank accounts whenever it suits them, and we are continually investing in new technologies such as eBanking, a mobile banking app and a tablet banking app, to make it easier for customers to do so. We are disappointed that the level of service experienced by this customer falls short of what we would expect, and are examining this thoroughly.

"There are no known issues similar to this with our telephone banking service and so this would appear to be an isolated, but unfortunate, occurrence. We are investigating further to resolve this quickly to our customer's satisfaction and to ensure that she is able to consistently access her account through telephone banking, with no further difficulties. The branch will stay in touch with our customer and update her on progress."

It is understandable that you want to avoid using a mobile for an 0845 call. While calls from a landline to an 0845 number typically cost between 1p and 10.5p a minute, on a mobile the cost typically ranges from 12p to 41p a minute.

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