Questions Of Cash: Hold the bailiffs: the book club read it wrong

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A. According to BCA, the £45 shown as due on your account comprises £20 for a book not received and £10 for a duplicate charge, plus a £15 fee for a bounced cheque. BCA has accepted that it should clear your account of the charges other than the fee for the bounced cheque and has called off its debt collectors. We also suggested that the £15 fee for the bounced cheque was high and requested it be reduced, but BCA declined - it said the fee was stipulated by company policy and non-negotiable.

Q. I complained to Standard Life about my endowment policy. I received two responses on the same day - one saying my complaint was still being investigated and the other dismissing it on the grounds that no evidence could be found of a Standard Life employee having advised me.

I produced a letter from a Standard Life representative stating: "You will notice that the average net monthly outlay under both schemes are similar, but there is a tax free cash sum available after the loan is repaid with the minimum cost endowment plan, plus the option to increase or extend your mortgage."

Standard Life has now offered to guarantee our target sum of £25,000 on maturity, provided the plan is unaltered and we continue to pay the premiums. Should we accept, or complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service, seeking the tax-free lump sum on top of the £25,000?
JK, by e-mail.

A. Accept the offer. The FOS would not uphold a complaint seeking a lump sum on top of paying off the mortgage, other than in exceptional circumstances where the amount of the lump sum was specified.

Q. I applied in early March for a Nationwide current account - the building society's online Flexaccount - which was eventually opened in May.

However, it is still not fully operational. I have just received a list of standing orders and direct debits from my old Lloyds TSB account which I need to authorise, but given the delays and problems I encountered, I am not sure if I still have confidence in Nationwide.
RS, by e-mail.

A. Nationwide says your account was opened in mid April, and that it took a week longer than usual to set up. But the society accepts it did not respond to your online requests for information on the delays and apologises for this lapse. It is sending you £100 as compensation.

Q. After being badly stung by stocks and shares ISAs, I moved £10,000 from a Portman Building Society account into the "safe haven" of a Norwich Union with-profits Portfolio Bond in 2001. Under the terms and conditions, I'm allowed to withdraw up to 10 per cent of this money each year without penalty.

In May this year, I made a partial surrender of £1,000 and received payment into my bank account. After the bond's anniversary in June, I applied to make another withdrawal of less than 10 per cent, but received a phone call saying that £83.42 would be taken from my bond as a market value reduction because of the stock market performance in 2000 and 2001. The transaction would be put on hold while I reconsidered.

When I asked if an MVR had been applied to my previous withdrawal, I was told it had, though it was not mentioned at the time. NU said it did not usually inform clients about an MVR unless it was for more than £2,000. Had I known I would lose £83.42 on the last transaction I would have liquidated cash from another source. AP, Brighton.

A. Norwich Union says the terms and conditions of your policy state that while there is no early surrender penalty for making withdrawals of up to 10 per cent of the capital value in any one year, it is made clear that market value reductions may be applied. However, you say you cannot recall this being pointed out to you when you took out the policy.

Norwich Union apologises for not making clear that your previous withdrawal of £1,000 would be subject to an MVR and if you wish to return this sum it will reinvest this in your policy at no loss to you. It adds that if you wish to enter into an agreement to withdraw a regular annual 5 per cent of the original deposit, this can be done without the application of an early surrender penalty or MVR imposition.

Q. My 91-year-old mother is being charged by Abbey for having insufficient funds in her current account to pay a standing order because a manual transfer from a savings account with £60,000 in it did not happen in time.

Abbey will not provide a facility to transfer money between accounts automatically, nor allow an overdraft facility sufficient to cover it each month. It took six months to open an e-saver account for my mother, during which time Abbey lost the application form. The section of Abbey dealing with power of attorney was months behind in its work.
PM, Winchester.

A. Abbey says: "The eSaver is not intended to provide banking facilities and this is the reason there is no automatic transfer function." But it accepts that demand for its eSaver is running ahead of its capacity to process applications, and "this will be fed back to the business area concerned". Abbey has refunded the charges and given your mother a £2,000 overdraft facility on her current account.

Questions of Cash cannot guarantee to respond to all queries and we cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; cash@independent.co.uk.

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