Questions Of Cash: 'Debt collector won't explain mystery debt'


Q. I have been contacted by a debt collecting agency, Fredrickson International, regarding a debt I'm totally unaware of. When I contacted Fredrickson, I was told it was a debt I allegedly owed Bulldog Broadband in 2006, and I could settle this for £131.76. I responded by requesting details of this debt, but the only replies I have had have been further demands without any explanation of the debt – which has now risen, with collecting charges, to £263.51. NJ, by email.



A. You took out a short-term broadband line rental contract with Bulldog when you lived in rented accommodation for a short time after you split up with your former partner. Bulldog instructed you to cancel this account in order for it to open a new account at your next address. But it seems that Bulldog – which became part of Pipex, which, in turn, became part of TalkTalk – generated an internal contract cancellation fee, of which you were unaware. Eventually this unpaid account was put out to collection. After our intervention you received a letter from Fredrickson advising you that the debt had been cancelled by its clients and no further collection action would be taken.



Q. I opened a two-year fixed rate bond for £77,000, paying 3.5 per cent gross, with Nationwide in April this year. I had to close this in June. I understood there would be a penalty, but I was surprised that this was £750.17. So I received less than I paid in – just £76,249.83 of my original investment. HC, by email.



A. Nationwide says this is consistent with the terms and conditions of the account. A spokesman explains: "Fixed rate bonds are medium-term deposit accounts that offer customers a higher rate of interest in return for 'locking in' their money for longer. Fixed rate bonds complement savers' portfolio of savings and investments and are intended for those who do not need access to their deposits. If a customer does need access to the money in their Nationwide Fixed Rate Bond, they are able to close the bond early, subject to an early closure charge. This is made clear in the society's literature when the bond is opened. It is important to note here that some savings providers do not allow any early closure at all except for exceptional circumstances – eg death, bankruptcy – while others operate a similar policy to the society."



Q. I bought flights in March through Ebookers with Continental Airlines for a multi-city trip from London to New York to San Francisco, back to New York and then home to London. But my plans changed and instead of taking the flight from San Francisco back to New York, I flew to Denver with a different airline to visit some friends and start a road trip from Denver to New York. When I went to check in at New York I was unable to do so, because I hadn't taken my flight from San Francisco to New York. The rest of my trip was now voided. To get home with Continental I would need to buy a new flight at a cost of $1,970. I phoned my parents, who were able to buy online a cheaper ticket with another airline. AB, by email.

A. Continental Airlines says that the "fare rules" issued to you by Ebookers made clear that "once an itinerary is ticketed, all flights must be flown in sequence, or the remaining flight segments will be automatically cancelled". Once you were recorded by the computer as a "no show" on the booked flight from San Francisco to Newark, your onward flight was automatically cancelled. Continental says that while it is sympathetic, it is the responsibility of passengers to be aware of the rules associated with tickets purchased. Ebookers says these are industry standard rules and that you should have contacted the airline once you decided to change your itinerary.



Q. I am the main beneficiary of my father's estate. His estate includes a stocks and shares Invesco Perpetual ISA. Selling this in the current financial climate is not very attractive. I have not taken out any type of ISA in the current financial year and the value of the equity ISA is less than the maximum permitted – is it allowed for the equity ISA to be transferred to me? The solicitor who is acting as the executor has told me that he believes the ISA is based on an individual savings plan and tax benefits that apply only to my father and therefore cannot be transferred. He says that our only option is to sell it and use the monies to purchase another ISA in my name, or use it for some other asset. He says he has "read and re-read the information sheet but can't find any alternative to sale". Is this correct? AN, Leicester.



A. Yes, that is correct. Invesco explains: "The deceased client's ISA cannot be 'transferred' into the beneficiary's name, but will need to be sold and then the assets invested into an ISA in the beneficiary's name." This has the same effect as a transfer and if you do that, Invesco will waive its initial investment charge. Invesco points out that you will need to send an original or copy of Grant of Probate, though if your father's estate is valued at less than £20,000, a copy of the death certificate and will may be sufficient. Your father's holding is in excess of £5,000, so the executors of your father's will must complete and sign a small estates form. It will also require a probate closure form, or letter detailing all the information contained on the probate closure form, signed by all executors.



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.

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