Questions of cash: Dispute over unwanted laptop appears to be at an impasse


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Q. I ordered online a Dell laptop, which was to be delivered within ten days. Two weeks later Dell rang me to say it could no longer supply that model and offered an alternative. In the same telephone conversation I cancelled the order and said I would consider the alternative once I had received details and a refund of the cancelled transaction. This was agreed and I received an email from Dell confirming that the refund was being processed and asking me to look out for the credit to my account.

But Dell shipped the original model, later claiming the order had not been cancelled. I provided AmEx with a copy of the written confirmation from Dell, yet AmEx has refused to remove the item from my statement. I complained to the Financial Ombudsman, which confirmed that the distance selling regulations were relevant. But the FOS misread the relevant provision by counting the cooling-off period from the date the order was placed, rather than the date of delivery. AmEx is now taking me to court for payment. If, as I contend, the order was  cancelled before shipment, then the goods were unsolicited.  HN, London.

A. We have tried, unsuccessfully, for several months to resolve this dispute. There are two central problems. One is that Dell refused to credit you with the cost of the laptop until it was returned, while you refused to return it until you were credited with the cost. This has caused the matter to drag on for two years. The second issue is whether Dell made a deliberate decision to deliver an item that you had cancelled, or whether it simply made a mistake. We are willing to accept Dell's assurance that this was cock-up, not conspiracy. Dell tells us that it is still content to credit you with the purchase cost, but only after the goods are returned. This seems reasonable to us.

AmEx is willing to write-off the interest charged on the item, which is in excess of £1,000, on condition that you repay the rest of the outstanding balance on your account. Your current debt with AmEx is over £13,000, so the dispute over payment for the laptop is just a small part of your overall financial circumstances. AmEx is willing to accept payment of £10,000 to clear your debt, but this is conditional on you accepting the proposal for resolving the dispute regarding the laptop. If you cannot afford to pay the £10,000 in a lump sum, AmEx will accept staged payments. AmEx says that it believes that as you originally ordered the goods and then cancelled, the law regarding unsolicited goods is not relevant and does not apply.

Q. I retired last year as a university lecturer. My employer took six months to process my retirement documentation. Now I cannot get through to the Teachers' Pension Scheme. I attempted to contact them by email, through their website and by post without response.  BD, London.

A. We also had no reply from the TPS by email.  We then contacted the Department for Education, which agreed to investigate - but failed to come back to us. We made more enquiries and established that the service was outsourced to Capita. After we contacted Capita, it investigated your problems and contacted you to assist you in accessing your records online.  We understand you are now in receipt of your pension.

Q. I am about to reach age 60 and I went on the Teachers' Pension Scheme website to apply for my pension. It was frustrating experience. The site failed repeatedly. I contacted it via the 'contact us' function on its website and later had a response saying an email was waiting for me - but none was there.  ML, Thailand.

A. Capita told us the TPS has tried but has been unable to contact you. It left a message for you on how to contact them. Your pension is due to begin this month, but there is a period of missing service information that needs to be supplied by a former employer.

* In Questions of Cash on 19 July we published a letter from a reader whose vehicle was hit by a van belonging to Norland Managed Services. In its response, the company stated if insurers determined that its driver was at fault "as a gesture of goodwill Norland will pay the £100 excess" to be imposed on our reader by his insurer. We have been contacted by Alan Samuel, a senior solicitor at Slater & Gordon, who asks us to make clear that the party found responsible for an accident is legally required to cover any losses incurred.

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