Questions of Cash: Emergency plumber charged over £1,000 for turning off a stopcock

 

Q. In February, a pipe burst in our upstairs bedroom at 11.30 at night. Shortly after, due to the torrent of water pouring down through the house, the ceiling in the hall collapsed. I was still at work, my wife was extremely stressed and my eldest daughter did some very quick internet research and found the number of emergency plumbers.

The company, London's Emergency Plumbers, gave her a verbal quote of £180 emergency call-out fee and £150 per half hour. Expensive, but it was an emergency. They wouldn't come out without being given our card details first, which my wife provided. The plumber arrived later than promised and by that time the water flow from the tank had all but stopped. All the plumber did was turn off a stopcock to prevent further water going to the upstairs bathroom. He was with us no longer than half an hour. We weren't given an invoice and the plumber said head office would take care of it.

A few days later I noticed from an ATM receipt that the balance of our account had gone down considerably. Checking online I found the plumbing company had taken £1,058.40 from our account. I called them up to query this and they claim they quoted us a half-hourly rate of £239.00 and they were with us for 90 minutes. Both of which are completely untrue. A further bit of online research showed that London's Emergency Plumbers was well known to the BBC's Rogue Traders programme.

I spoke to Citizens' Advice, which suggested I wrote to the plumbing company using a Citizens' Advice template letter, which I did. They notified Hackney Trading Services where I live, which notified Bedford Trading Standards, which is where the plumbing company is based. I spoke to NatWest Visa, but they weren't very helpful. Citizens' Advice said to be persistent and ask for a chargeback, but when I called again the NatWest Visa debit retail dispute number they said because the price agreement with the plumbing company was verbal, they couldn't do anything. AS, London.

A. When we phoned London's Emergency Plumbers, our calls went to an answerphone, where a recording said that the message system was full and could not take further messages. Emails sent to the email address listed on its website bounced. An internet search suggested that the person behind the company is Muhammed Shamrez, who has also traded as Express Plumbers of Bedford. There are many complaints online against the two businesses about similar trading practices to yours, involving excessive charges for small amounts of work.

We made a strong argument to NatWest that we believed its chargeback rules should apply in this case. It has now agreed to refund the charge above that quoted to you on the phone, which itself was a very hefty £180 call-out, plus £150 for half an hour, plus VAT. That has left you with a bill of £396, but NatWest has accepted a chargeback of £662 which has been refunded to your account. It would seem that London's Emergency Plumbers and Express Plumbers of Bedford are no longer trading. Other, legitimate, plumbing businesses operate with similar names.

Q. I accommodate Google Adsense adverts on my website. I'm registered for VAT, but I don't know how to claim from Google the VAT element on the sale. Can you find out for me? CW, London.

A. Google says that although your payments are received in sterling the payments are made from its operational base in Ireland. As this is in effect a service you provide to another EU country, VAT is not chargeable. However, the UK's VAT regulations do indicate that you zero rate on sales to other EU countries on the basis that the service is received outside the UK.

If companies advertising on your website are based in the UK, the zero rating could theoretically be challenged by HMRC. But given the amounts involved, this seems unlikely. HMRC has bigger issues to deal with regarding Google, though your experience might be regarded as symptomatic of the wider controversy on tax avoidance.

Q. I recently bought an iPad Mini and chose a SIM-only broadband package with 3 Mobile. I chose this as the cheapest option, but also because its website says it is easy to check your data usage. I do not want to be charged extra for going over my monthly allowance. The SIM was damaged and could not be fitted into the iPad, so I returned it the next day and was issued with a replacement.

I filled in a form on 3's website in order to receive a password so that I can check my data usage and got a response that the password had been sent to my device. I did not receive it. When I called 3, I was told that the only way I can get the password is to remove the SIM from the iPad and put it into my mobile phone. But the SIM is delicate and I don't want to damage it and I don't have a device that the SIM would fit. 3 will not send me a password by email or allow me to choose a password on its website. RM, London.

A. 3 says that its systems and security controls prevent the password being provided to you in any other way. To circumvent this we arranged with 3 for you to visit your local store. Staff there were expecting you and would have let you use a compatible iPhone, transfer the SIM from the iPad to the iPhone and that way enable you to download your password.

Staff would have been responsible for ensuring that the SIM was not damaged in this process. But you have expressed frustration that this is apparently the only solution available and have decided to cancel the contract.

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

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

    £32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

    Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

    £Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum