Questions Of Cash: 'Can you save us from bungling BT and crazy bills?'


Q. My 88-year-old cousin lives in a nursing home. When she moved there last year she contracted with BT for a line in her room. All worked well until September, when she had a letter from BT welcoming her as a customer and giving her a completely new phone number in another area. The letter quoted her bank details. She replied that she did not want a second phone line. Her letter was ignored. In November she received another letter from BT, apologising for not having sent a bill. When that bill arrived it was for £154.01 and included both phone numbers. Payment was collected by direct debit. My cousin wrote and phoned again, without success. I spoke to BT, which insisted that all calls on this second line would have to be paid for by my cousin, even though she has no second line! Next time I spoke to BT, it said the matter had been resolved with my cousin – which was untrue. BT then accepted its mistake and sent a credit note for £106.31. But the next bill included her line rental, the call charges on this second line, plus a £70 line cancellation fee, payment for which – £173.58 – was taken from her by direct debit. HM, Bristol.

A. BT has accepted that it wrongly allocated a second phone line to your cousin's account, for which she had no responsibility. This should have been obvious to BT from communications from your cousin and yourself, but it seems that only our intervention persuaded BT. It has refunded £176.31, which it calculates to be the overcharge. BT has also agreed to send your cousin a £30 M&S token and will not levy any charges to your cousin for three months.

Q. Last year, my wife and I opened fixed rate HiSave accounts with ICICI Bank. I am concerned that it keeps sending bulletins advising reviewed rates (always downwards). I have attempted to contact the bank to confirm that I am on a fixed interest account. My emails to its online customer services keep being returned to me as an invalid address. When I phoned, I obtained a recorded message saying all its staff are busy. Should I worry about the bank's status? JC, by email.

A.The bank is currently listed by Moneyfacts.co.uk as offering the best fixed-rate bond savings rate of 3.9 per cent. The parent bank is the largest private bank in India and its latest results, published in January, show increased operating profits and a strong capital adequacy ratio. In the UK, ICICI reported a small after-tax loss, with the bank making losses on its exposure to securities. Fitch's ratings agency gives the parent bank a BBB rating, its lowest investment grade rating, having downgraded ICICI at the end of last year. This is a weaker rating than it gave the Icelandic banks shortly before they collapsed. The bank's perceived vulnerability is based on questions about the strength of some of its assets. ICICI is a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and should the bank become unable to repay depositors, savings up to £50,000 would be fully covered by the FSCS. Repeated attempts to speak to the bank's Indian head office were unsuccessful. Our emails to the bank bounced.

Q. I run a small firm. Two of our customers' cheques bounced in December. This is shown on our December bank statement, but our bank, Abbey, has still not provided details of which customers this refers to. Previously, Abbey has sent us the cheques back, but not this time. Our phone calls have resulted in four different explanations, the worst being that Abbey will no longer reveal the customer details unless we pay a £10 fee per bounced cheque! How does Abbey expect us to get this money back if it doesn't tell us whose cheques have bounced? JB, Newcastle.

A. Abbey accepts that "the service received regarding the bounced cheques has been unacceptable" and it apologises. It has now provided you with the information required and will pay you £50 as an ex-gratia payment.

Q. I live in Germany and work as an English teacher but plan to return to Britain at the beginning of next year. How can I open a bank account in England while still living in Germany? I regularly visit England and it would be much more convenient if I could open an account there. CH, Germany.

A. Several UK banks will not allow people living outside the UK to open accounts. Others only do so for customers passing a minimum affluence test. Barclays requires at least £5,000 to be maintained in a current account, or for the customer to have an annual salary of at least £24,000 to be deposited in the account on a monthly basis. HSBC offers a more useful "Passport" account, which can be held by someone without a UK address. You would, though, need to prove your identity at an HSBC branch in the UK before the account could be finalised and approved. There is a £6 monthly charge on the account. Customers of the account are entitled to reduced charges on foreign currency transfers.

Q. I made an online booking for a family room at the Sleaford Travelodge hotel, for three adults for one night. I paid £64.15 by credit card, including £1 insurance in case of cancellation. I had to take my frail parents, both in their eighties, to a family funeral. But there was bad snow, the roads were treacherous and I decided that it was safer to stay at another Travelodge nearer to where we were. I phoned Sleaford Travelodge, which told me I could not transfer the booking, or arrange a refund with them. I was told to phone Travelodge's administrative office to obtain the refund. We then stayed at South Cave Travelodge. But I have been unable to obtain the refund for the cancelled Sleaford booking. SW, Salisbury.

A. Travelodge says you cancelled after the specified cut-off time for a notified cancellation so your insurance policy did not cover you. As a goodwill gesture it has issued you with a voucher for £51 – the cost of your stay at South Cave. Travelodge declines to credit your card account.

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

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

    Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

    £280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little