Questions of Cash: 'I had to pay delivery costs for a sofa I don't want'

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Q. I ordered a leather sofa from English Sofas, which was ripped during delivery. This was spotted by the delivery workers, who took the goods directly back to the suppliers. I cancelled the order because if the sofa is so easily ripped in transit, it will not cope with my grandchildren playing on it. I paid in advance by credit card and the cost of the sofa was credited to my account. But English Sofas refuses to refund the £85 delivery charge. SM, Gwynedd.

A. English Sofas believes you were unreasonable in cancelling the order. It argues that its sofas are built to withstand normal family use and that although rips occasionally occur in transit, these can be remedied easily. "We make clear on our website that a customer can return their purchase and receive a refund, but need to share in the cost of transport," says Sam Neumann of English Sofas. "Our cost to ship there and back is about £170 and [the reader] has been asked to pay half, which we think is reasonable." But you remain unconvinced that the sofa will withstand a family environment. We asked Citizens' Advice for its view on liability for the transportation costs. It believes that the Sale of Goods Act's requirement that goods should be of satisfactory quality means that you should not have to pay any transportation costs. We put this to English Sofas, which still argues its position is legally sound – but agreed as a goodwill gesture to refund half the remaining delivery charge, £42.50, which it says it has now done. One option would be to seek recovery of the other £42.50 through the courts, but this is a last resort. We then approached your credit card issuer, HSBC, requesting a "chargeback" against English Sofas for the remaining £42.50. HSBC considered this and concluded that making this chargeback could be contested by English Sofas and that legal liability for the delivery charge was not clear. But HSBC regards you as a valued customer and will therefore refund you the £42.50 balance as a gesture of goodwill.

Q. I read in 'The Independent' that Halifax was launching a fee-free mortgage, subject to a 40 per cent deposit. As I was looking for a 25 per cent LTV [loan to value] this seemed perfect for me. My local branch knew nothing of this product and eventually I was told it did not exist. A week later I was phoned to say it was now available. I then met the bank's officials and agreed to take out a mortgage and pay £540 for a survey, which was carried out by HBOS's internal surveyors who confirmed in writing that they would be carrying out the survey at a cost of £440, including VAT. But I am now told that I must pay another £100 for Halifax's internal paperwork on the survey, which seems extortionate. MF, by email.

A. Halifax accepts that the correspondence to you was not as clear as it could have been, but argues that the total survey fee initially quoted to you is the one that is being charged. It is not going to refund you the £100 unless you successfully take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Q. I have been unable to use my Barclaycard online account since 27 July. Whenever I try to log in I get an "an error has occurred" message and I'm removed from the secure site. I've sent 10 emails and two letters and made six phone calls trying to resolve the situation, all without success. On my last call I was told "we have a worldwide problem". – in which case, why isn't this resolved? MR, Offaly, Ireland.

A. Barclaycard insists it does not have "a worldwide problem", but accepts there was a particular difficulty on your account that has now been resolved. It appears there was a suspicious transaction on your account, which generated its suspension – but call centre staff gave you misleading information. Nor was it sorted out until we got involved. We are disturbed at the frequency with which customers are given wrong information by banks' call centres, especially when there has been suspicious activity on an account – this is a common cause of complaint to us. While we recognise the need for discretion, this should not involve customers being given factually incorrect information.

Q. I was unable to use my Co-operative Bank debit card after 19 April, despite the expiry date being the end of April 2008. I was told this was because the card had expired and that I was being issued with a new card. After several phone calls, the new card arrived on 26 April, but this was not valid until June. Being unable to use a debit card for several weeks caused me to pay £100 in extra bank charges, which I believe the Co-operative Bank should cover. RY, West Sussex.

A.You should have been able to continue using your existing card, despite a replacement card being dispatched. The Co-operative Bank suggests that your old card probably became damaged and that it was this that prevented its continued use. But it apologises for the delays in sending a replacement card with an early "valid from" date. It is sending you £50 as a goodwill payment and is refunding all fees incurred through using your credit card while waiting for the replacement debit card.

Questions of Cash 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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