Questions of Cash: How wrangle over a Virgin bill put my bid to buy a house in peril


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The Independent Online

Q. You sorted out a dispute I had with Virgin Mobile a few months ago. However, it now emerges that Virgin Media put a default on my credit status and this was not lifted, despite your help. I have put in an application to buy my council house and requested a mortgage, but the bank has refused because of my credit status. I have tried to get this sorted out with Virgin Mobile, but my calls to them just go round in circles. I am at risk of losing my opportunity to buy my own home. CM, Leicester

A. The default on your credit reference was not as a result of the problem with Virgin Media regarding your Virgin Mobile account, where we helped, but in fact relates to a separate dispute with Virgin Media. You took other services from Virgin Media through a cable connection and it says you did not pay your bill on time. You have disputed this, but Virgin Media says that according to its records your fixed line service was disconnected in April 2012, a final bill for £229.46 was issued on 22 June and due for immediate payment, but was not paid until 14 November 2012. A Virgin Media spokeswoman explained: “[The reader’s] final bill remained unsettled for five months, during which time he received a number of reminders from us. Due to this delay in payment a note was put on [the reader’s] credit file, but as the balance is now cleared we’ve asked for the default to be removed.” You should now be able to complete the arrangements to buy the property.

Q. I bought six e-books from the Sony Reader store. During the download there were continual errors, with the e-books stored in a format that could not be transferred to my reader. I looked at consumer forums and found this seems to be a common problem. I called the Sony Reader customer support at four pence a minute, but they were unable to help. By then I was fed up and requested a refund. I was told this would be processed and received an email the same day confirming this. I was then emailed to be told that a refund had been applied to my bank account, which seemed strange as I had paid by American Express card. More than a month later the refund had not appeared on my card account, so I emailed Sony Reader and received a standard response thanking me for my patience and saying the matter had been escalated and I would be contacted again. But nothing happened. I then contacted Sony’s Facebook page and Sony responded requesting the case number, which I provided, but again nothing happened. I then submitted a complaint on Sony’s website. I was told to contact customer support. I emailed again requesting a senior person sort out the problem and received a response saying the matter had been escalated, but yet again nothing happened. I then put up a poem on the Sony website and once more I was told to phone customer support. I have no confidence in the customer support service, I don’t want to pay the four pence a minute, and I want my refund. It is only £35, but there is a principle involved. DC, by email.

A. The money has now been refunded to your American Express account. Sony apologises and has offered you a goodwill gesture of a £10 voucher – which seems short of generosity given the circumstances.

Q. I was sold a Card Safe insurance policy by M&S in November 1990. I think M&S behaved unethically as they did not tell me the insurance was with Card Protection Plan Ltd. M&S sold the insurance at the same time as encouraging me to have its store card, which later became a credit card. I was told I needed the insurance to cover all my credit, debit and store cards, and those of my husband, against the risk of fraud and theft. I cancelled the policy in November 2004. In April 2013 I wrote to M&S requesting a refund of all Card Safe premiums, plus interest. M&S responded that it had deemed the policy to be mis-sold on the grounds that it could not fully investigate the circumstances of the sale and so upheld my complaint. However, as the company was not regulated by the Financial Services Authority at the time of the sale it was not required to refund premiums dating back to that period. The Financial Ombudsman Service says that neither Card Protection Plan Ltd nor M&S were regulated by the FSA in 1990, so it cannot consider my complaint. The renewal notice in 2004 states that M&S is “a member of the General Insurance Standards Council authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority” . MR, Basildon.

A. Complaints have alleged that card protection policies were sometimes mis-sold, with the benefits of the policies exaggerated. However, M&S Bank argues the policy it sold you was worthwhile and it does not believe policies sold before 2005, which used different sales material, were mis-sold. M&S Bank refuses to refund the premiums and interest, but has sent you £100 in recognition of its failure to properly explain the reason for its rejection of your claim for a refund.

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