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Spend & Save

Questions of Cash: Honestly, I'm not dead, Talkmobile, so don't cut me off


Q. I have been unable to use my Talkmobile phone since 23 January. My contract expired in January, but I agreed an upgrade in November. However, I didn't like my new phone and returned it within the agreed period. I have a monthly direct debit payable to Talk Mobile for £12.25.

Despite this, I was phoned on 9 January requesting a further payment of £29.68, which I agreed. Yet on 18 January my phone was disconnected without prior notice or explanation. When I complained I was told to visit a Carphone Warehouse store, with proof of identity. I did that and thought the matter was settled.

But when I got home I received a call from Talk Mobile, saying that I was recorded as having died, which is why my phone had been disconnected. I was assured there had been a mistake and the phone would be reconnected within two hours. That did not happen and the phone is still disconnected. I have been deprived of my phone for 21 days. BP, London.

A. Talk Mobile apologises. There were two administrative errors on your account. Your direct debit had been deactivated and then you were mistaken for another customer, who had died. A spokeswoman says: "We can confirm that the account has now been reconnected and the direct debit reinstated. We have provided two months' free line rental as a token of our apology, which [the reader] has accepted."

Q. My wife and I were booked on a British Airways flight from Delhi to London on 19 January. After reaching the airport, we were told the flight was cancelled because of snow in London. We understood that, though it would have been helpful to have sent us a text to advise us of this, especially as we checked in online. At Delhi, BA told us to queue for another flight, which we did for almost two hours.

We were then called onto a different queue and told to take a China Airlines flight to Rome, connecting to a BA flight to London. This added six hours to our journey time, but there were no alternatives offered. We had bought premium economy flights, but these were downgraded to economy for the journey home. I was told to speak to BA in London about a refund. Initially China Airlines said our bags were too heavy, but they agreed to take them after we explained they were packed in accordance with BA's requirements.

When we arrived at London, a BA employee guided us through a security check, but our bags did not appear. After 45 minutes we went to the lost-baggage counter, where we were told the bags were probably in Rome. They were delivered to us five days later, but one of the bags now had a broken handle. I have filled in claim forms and sent emails to BA, but all I get are letters of apology – and not even the reward points for the flights. AN, London.

A. You tell us that as a result of us contacting BA, they made you an offer of £200 in BA vouchers in compensation; 60,000 Avios loyalty points; and a refund of £14 – the difference in cost between economy and premium economy tickets for the return journey. You asked us if we thought the offer was adequate and we suggested that you request BA paid the cost of a bag to replace the one that was broken. BA then came back with a significantly improved offer, paying for the bag and also for your taxi fare home.

A spokeswoman for BA apologises for the problems with the flight, caused, as you say, by severe winter weather in London. She explains that BA's priority was to arrange for customers to complete their journeys in the shortest possible time. Unfortunately in your case this involved downgrading your seats, as China Airlines does not have a premium economy class.

"We have apologised for this disappointment and have offered him the difference in fare plus compensation of either a £100 voucher or £75 in cash per customer," she adds. "We have reimbursed him the cost of his damaged luggage and his taxi fare home from the airport. As a gesture of goodwill, we have also offered 30,000 Avios [points] per customer for the difficulties he encountered."

Q. I have received a letter from a company called Equiniti, asking me to provide proof of identity in relation to an entitlement that is supposedly outstanding. It says that I have 28 days to respond and if I don't they will send someone to look for me. Is this a scam? I am unaware of any outstanding shares or entitlements. NH, Manchester.

A. This is not a scam. Equiniti maintains the share registers of a large proportion of the largest UK companies. A spokesman for Equiniti explains: "In order to ensure this happens securely and accurately, we have both a legal and regulatory duty and practical need to ensure that where possible we always have the shareholder's or investor's current contact details. Unfortunately, some shareholders and investors do not inform us when they move home or change their bank details and when this happens we will always try to contact the shareholder or customer.

Equally, difficulties can arise where the shareholder or investor dies, and this is especially the case when the deceased leaves no record of their assets or does not appoint a representative to deal with their affairs.

However, it is essential that our actions do not create any opportunity for fraud and, for this reason, we are unable to provide details of the assets or any other sensitive information before confirmation of identity. Quite simply, if a shareholder has moved without informing us, we would never impart information that a new property occupier could then use fraudulently." In some instances, the money involved can be substantial, so extreme care must be taken to identify the rightful owner of the assets.