Questions Of Cash: Cautious and safe? Not at the Co-op Bank

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Q. The Co-operative Bank advised me in January last year to invest £16,000 in a "cautious and safe" Corporate Bond Income Trust, including £7,000 in an ISA. By April this year, my investment was worth only £13,278. I told the bank I was unhappy, but its adviser said the market had caught people by surprise and he could only apologise. On his advice, I agreed to divide my money into two new investments, £6,278 in Sustainable Leaders and £7,000 in UK Income with Growth. Instead, the bank put all my remaining money in Sustainable Leaders and the investment is now worth only £12,608. I wish I had left it in a building society account. PW, by email.

A. The Co-operative Bank apologises and is paying you £17,303.87 – the original value of the investment, plus interest for the period at 6.75 per cent, less tax. This puts you into a better position than if the money been held in a savings account for the period.

Q. In June, I ordered two DVDs from CD-Wow. My account page on the company's website states that one of the DVDs was dispatched on 3 August and email notification sent to me. But I did not receive the email or DVDs. I have written asking when I will get the DVDs, but I have only had an automated response saying my query will be dealt with. FM, by email.

A. CD-Wow has gone into administration. However, the administrator says the company is still trading. You have now received one of the DVDs you ordered, and your payment has been refunded on the second.

Q. My quarterly BT bill included a new "payment processing fee" of £4.50. An enclosed leaflet said that other providers insist on using direct debits and that my BT Broadband charges were reduced by £1 a month. I pay by cheque, which suits me, and I pay promptly. Why should I be penalised? FW, by email.

A. Several readers have complained about this. BT says: "There are significant costs in managing other payment methods each month, so we encourage customers to pay by direct debit – which is usually easier and more cost effective for both parties. However, we do respect some customers' wishes to pay by other means and therefore offer a choice." You also have a choice of supplier – and if you object to the fee, you should enquire about the charges and service of BT's competitors.

Q. We have British Gas's HomeCare 400 maintenance and repair service for our gas and electrical systems. We had a problem with one of our low voltage, recessed downlights. HomeCare's electrician replaced it with a standard light, out of keeping with our other lights. The HomeCare contract explains that it is a "repair service for existing fixed electrical system, fuse boxes, light switches and fittings". But BG will only meet the costs of standard parts replacement. KB, Sutton Coldfield.

A. BG insists your contract specifies that only standards parts will be used when replacing faulty parts. However, as a gesture of goodwill because you are a valued customer, it has replaced your special fittings. But it adds: "It would simply not be possible to source every single light fitting available on the market now and in the past. For that reason, we believe our terms and conditions are fair and made very clear to the customers."

Q. My employer has gone into liquidation. I asked my mortgage lender, Abbey, for a three-month holiday from repayments, but it refused. I have had a mortgage for 15 years and never defaulted, not even when I was made redundant and when my husband died. I have an A1 credit rating and had this mortgage for two years. A colleague who lost his job had his mortgage for only one month and his provider gave him a month off paying. My house is worth five times the value of my mortgage. Why can't I get a repayment holiday? SD, Hove.

A. Abbey only permits repayment holidays on its flexible mortgages – and says this is made clear in the terms of your current mortgage. It argues that it has been helpful by offering to reduce your repayments to £415 a month for three months. Abbey's spokesman adds: "We felt that this may assist with your financial difficulties, as well as ensuring that the arrears balance on your mortgage did not exceed the equivalent of one monthly payment. This would avoid any adverse entry being applied to your credit record. In addition, we discussed the possibility of either extending the term of your mortgage or converting your mortgage to an interest-only basis, both of which would result in a reduction in your monthly payment."

Q.I paid a £200 cheque into my Halifax Easy Access Account, and then found I could not access the money for 11 days. Previously, it took four days for a cheque to clear in this account and it takes four days for my Pension Credit to clear. Why did it take longer this time? Halifax discriminates against low-income customers whose credit rating prevents them from having a current account. An Easy Access Account does not have a cheque book facility, so Halifax charges £10 for a counter cheque. DB, by email.

A. Halifax does not allow customers of this account to make withdrawals against the value of a cheque until it is clear that the cheque will be honoured. This can vary according to who made out the cheque. Payments made through the BACS system are quicker, taking only three days to clear. Halifax suggests that if you are unhappy with the terms of its Easy Access Account you apply for a current account – but cannot guarantee that an application would succeed.

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; cash@independent.co.uk.

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