Questions of cash: Frozen out of a refund request


Q. My parents bought a freezer from Comet, which was delivered in December. The old freezer was removed by Comet’s delivery men. They were told to wait 24 hours before switching on the new freezer. They were confident that the food from the old freezer would not thaw by then. But when they went to switch it on they found that the freezer had been wedged in so close to the wall that they were unable to access the plug. Comet said someone would visit to help, but turned up at a time when my parents had said they would be out.

When, a day later, someone from Comet arrived again, they said all the food in the freezer had to be thrown away. Comet twice assured my parents they would compensate for the cost of the food that had to be destroyed. But, after my parents spent hours compiling a list of items, Comet phoned to say that it was not liable for the loss as there had not been an electrical fault. I have taken legal advice and been told that as Comet delivered the freezer, it is liable. GT, Cambridge.

A. Comet apologises. It has sent your parents £220 in full settlement of their claim. It has also initiated an investigation to establish why your parents were not compensated when they first submitted their claim.

Q. I bought goods from www.cheap abercrombie.com in September. I was disappointed with the standard of the goods and tried to return them immediately. There was no return address, so I emailed repeatedly but without reply. I then asked Halifax to stop the credit card payment. Initially, it said I had to wait until I received my next statement. Then it asked for details of the complaint, but said it was unable “to assist in disputes of this nature”. Instead, I would have to get a refund voucher from the merchant before Halifax could process a refund. But, as I have been unable to contact the merchant, I cannot get this. Has Halifax acted correctly? RM, Co. Tyrone.

A. The www.cheap abercrombie.com website still exists, but its “contact us” option was not functioning on the occasions we tried to use it. Nor were any addresses, phone numbers or email addresses shown on the website. The website does contain the promise that “we will gladly accept a return in brand new condition” – but this is not helpful when there is no return address!

We took up your problem with Halifax, pointing out that you seemed to have strong grounds for it to activate a chargeback against the retailer. However, Halifax informed us that the purchase was for less than £100 – the threshold at which they become jointly liable with the retailer for the supply of goods. Moreover, Halifax argues that under Mastercard regulations it cannot be held responsible for the quality of goods.

The Financial Ombudsman says that responsibility for disputes over the quality of goods can be difficult to resolve. But Halifax accepts that the normal resort of resolving matters by communication with the retailer appears not to be available to you. On this basis, its dispute resolution team has agreed to reconsider your case and whether it can make a chargeback. To enable it to do this, it asks you to forward copies and details of the order and your attempts to communicate with the business.

Q. My brother-in-law is being harassed by MBNA over my credit card debts. He should not have borrowed large amounts of money on the card, but MBNA should not have allowed him to do so. He can’t repay the debt and, as he is now 65, he is unlikely ever to repay in full – though he is trying to do so. He keeps getting calls and letters from MBNA, despite it agreeing in September to stop making calls.

He has entered an agreement through Payplan with his creditors. Payplan is now updating his statement of income and expenditure. All creditors will then be notified of a realistic schedule of repayments. He cannot now legally repay MBNA in preference to other creditors. I believe MBNA is in breach of the banking code and its legal duties. SC, Tring.

A. MBNA says that the agreement in September to stop making calls was subject to your brother-in-law remaining in contact with it to advise a structure of repayments. MBNA believes he broke this agreement, which is why it wrote and phoned him in October. But MBNA accepts that it made five further calls late last year in breach of the agreement and apologises. Subsequent calls, says MBNA, were trying to arrange the details of an offer made by your brother-in-law for partial repayment. It does not regard these calls as harassment, or as unreasonable. It says it has not received any correspondence from Payplan, or a reference number to confirm that it is dealing with your brother-in-law’s affairs.

While it does not regard its actions as excessive, it has refunded some of the charges on the account. It is willing to accept an offer of partial repayment of the debt, but it does not believe that proposals previously provided are affordable for your brother-in-law. It therefore requests that he makes fresh contact to agree a mutually acceptable schedule for repaying the debt.

Q. My son is being chased by debt collectors on behalf of Scottish Power for an energy bill mostly run up by his flatmate. Can you help? ST, by email.

A. Your son made the common mistake of entering into a supply contract with an energy company in his sole name, despite the accommodation being shared. It then became his responsibility to recover his flatmate’s contribution. But Scottish Power has agreed to instruct its debt collectors to suspend action against your son, providing he supplies proof of the joint tenancy. They will then initiate collection action against his flatmate.

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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