Questions of Cash: Confusion down at Bradford & Bingley
Saturday 23 February 2008
Q. I applied online to Bradford & Bingley on 6 January for a one-year eSaver investment account at 6.80 per cent fixed interest, as advertised. I received a confirmation number and account number, and was told I should make my initial deposit within 30 days. On 15 January I received a reminder in which I was told to make the deposit by 18 January. Then the next day I received an email to say that I had 14 days to make the deposit, either by cheque or bank transfer through the bank's website. On the 18th, I had everything ready to pay in the money, but the option to do this by bank transfer had disappeared from the website, so I rang the eSaver Group, which said it only accepted cheques and that these had to reach them by the 18th. I was told the conditions had changed and the bank had the right to do this. I went to a branch where I was told it could not accept cheques into an eSaver account. I am fed up that I was given so much contradictory information.
A. Bradford & Bingley accepts that it provided a "miscommunication", failing to explain that the eSaver had only limited availability. It adds: "Unfortunately, we are no longer able to accept deposits into this account because the tranche of money available to fund the product is no longer available." This seemed to us an inadequate response, given that B&B accepts that it was in the wrong. B&B has now agreed to put you in the position you would have been in had B&B not withdrawn the product. If you open an eBond 20, B&B will top this up to the interest rate you would have received on the eSaver.
Q. I asked the Energy Saving Trust for a reputable installer of solar water heating panels. The nearest to our home is Solar Water Heating Ltd. The company said that we did not need planning permission, and in November 2006 we gave it the go-ahead, on the understanding that the panels would be installed before Christmas that year. We paid a deposit of £2,498.47: half the final price. We contacted the council to confirm that there was no need for planning permission, but were told that, as we lived in a housing association-run retirement complex, the association needed to give permission. It was only in May 2007 that the council confirmed that no planning permission was needed. In June, we established that the housing association would not give permission unless we paid nearly £900 to have our deeds altered. We then gave up and asked Solar Water Heating for our deposit back, but it said it had spent all but £300 of the deposit trying to get the housing association to give permission, claiming that we had instructed it to do this. We agree it probably spent £500, but we want the rest back. We have now moved and Solar Water Heating Ltd has offered to install the panels at our new home at no extra cost, but there is no space for them to be fitted. JP, London.
A. Malcolm Stanford of Solar Water Heating Ltd said initially that he had been waiting for you to contact him. He explained: "She [the reader] signed a contract with us that had a cancellation clause. We fought the housing association on her behalf. We took legal advice on her behalf." He says that he spent "hours" trying to sort this out, with help from "friends in the legal profession". When we contacted Mr Stanford again, asking if he had taken a decision on whether to repay some of the deposit, he said: "What I propose to do is my business and [the reader's] business and for you to learn about if there is a court case. If there isn't a court case, the reader will tell you what happens." He then claimed that he was unable to discuss the matter further because of the Data Protection Act. We put your case to Citizens' Advice, which said that the legal position is difficult to determine and would depend on precisely what instructions you gave Solar Water Heating Ltd and what agreement you reached, if any, about refunding the deposit upon contract cancellation. You tell us that you now intend to pursue the matter in the Small Claims Court.
Q. In November, I booked accommodation at the Raj Palace Hotel in Jaipur, India, via the Expedia.co.uk website at a cost of £799.42. I paid by credit card and the booking was confirmed by email. At the end of my stay I was presented with a bill for additional charges for drinks, meals etc, which I settled on the spot. But on my next credit card statement, the accommodation charge was shown as £1,007.01. A 25 per cent surcharge seems totally unreasonable. AS, Winchester.
A. The higher charge reflected various incidentals, particularly local taxes, about which the hotel had not advised Expedia. Expedia says that because it is aware that hotels using the "Global Distribution System" do not always advise full details of local charges, it included the warning on your booking "that the price shown above DOES NOT include any applicable hotel service fees, charges for optional incidentals, or regulatory surcharges". However, the extra charges also reflected changes in the exchange rate as a result of the rupee gaining value, although you were quoted charges in sterling. Expedia has now settled your complaint and you report receiving the full £207.59 that you disputed.
Q. If a bank agrees to issue a loan on a commercial property, does it have a duty under the Banking Code to provide an offer letter, providing terms and conditions of the loan, before it can process the application? IS, by email.
A. Where a borrower is an individual, the Consumer Credit Act requires the lender to make explicit the terms and conditions prior to the contract being finalised. Where it is a small business that takes out the loan, section 3.1 of the Business Banking Code specifies that the bank must provide in advance clear information – such as the terms of a loan.
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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