Questions Of Cash: 'I no longer have the money to fight my case'


Q. I was divorced in 2005, when I was also off work because of ill health. This led to arrears on my mortgage with the West Bromwich Mortgage Company. At the final divorce proceedings the judge said that as the house was up for sale and to avoid further hardship I only had to make the mortgage payments, not the arrears. But WBMC began eviction proceedings immediately after the divorce and applied for the eviction of my ex-wife and our children. Each time it applied the judge said that as long as the mortgage was being paid there were no grounds for eviction. Each time, WBMC immediately applied again for eviction. Before the house was sold in May 2007 WBMC told me the arrears were £3,192.81, plus legal fees of £5,922.44 for the failed eviction proceedings. I also had to pay £3,767.75 for my own legal fees to prevent the evictions. I lodged a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman, which concluded WBMC's legal fees were justified. It said if I was still unhappy I could sue WBMC, but I no longer have the money to do this. NS, Stockton-on-Tees.

A. WBMC gave us a different version of events, stating that by the time your mortgage account was redeemed the arrears stood at £10,049.18 and that you repeatedly failed to comply with the requirements of your mortgage agreement and a court order. We are not in a position to assess which party is right: the Financial Ombudsman did this and supported WBMC. There is nothing further we can do, given that WBMC does not accept it did anything wrong. We do, though, find it interesting that WBMC exists as wholly-owned subsidiary of the West Bromwich Building Society. You became a debtor to WBMC as a result of one of several purchases it made of portfolios of mortgages from other lenders: some of which made sub-prime, self-certified and buy-to-let loans that could have high rates of defaults. The activities of WBMC have led to anxieties over the wellbeing of the parent building society, which is the ninth- largest.

Q. In New York I tried to withdraw $200 using my NatWest Maestro card in an ATM machine, which printed a slip saying "Transaction Denied". Other attempts were also unsuccessful and I had to withdraw money using my credit card, paying higher commission. Despite three letters to NatWest, I have failed to receive a satisfactory explanation for the problem. It says: "...your card was stopped temporarily as a precaution as the payment and withdrawals you were doing were classed as unusual activity and the stop was placed to help reduce fraud." AN, Leeds.

A. NatWest does not provide detailed information on the circumstances that lead to a transaction refusal, nor will it specify the exact reasons why your transaction was refused. It clearly believes that to do so would assist fraudsters in getting round anti-fraud controls. Its general advice is that customers should advise the bank of their mobile phone numbers to enable checks to be made of any unusual transactions and to take the bank's customer services phone numbers with them when travelling, to arrange for cards to be unblocked if there is a problem. It also seems sensible to warn your bank before you travel abroad, but other readers with various banks have reported that this has not always prevented their cards being blocked.

Q. Last year I terminated my dial-up AOL account after being unable to access the internet for three months. Three months later I got a letter demanding payment for one month's charges. But I had paid my bills in full and told them this. In January I got a letter from Advantis Credit – a debt collection agency – demanding money. I then emailed the collection agency by recorded delivery a month ago querying the debt: it replied that it was "suspending further action awaiting a reply from their client". Now I have received another letter threatening me with a collector coming to my home and/or commencing legal action. VP, London.

A. AOL Broadband – now owned by Carphone Warehouse – says that its records show that it did not receive any phone calls or emails from you reporting a problem with your service. This is strongly denied by you. AOL Broadband also says that both itself and the debt collection agency have no record of your having queried the debt. It says that your final payments did not clear the account. But it seems that AOL Broadband's attempts to tell you this were sent to an email address you no longer used after your AOL account was closed. To resolve the dispute, AOL Broadband has agreed to write-off the debt of £9.99 and the additional charge levied by the debt collection agency. It has also agreed not to make any negative entry on your credit reference.

Q. In October Pipex cancelled my "Anytime" phone package without my knowledge or consent. This meant my phone calls were processed via BT without my knowing and led to a surprise BT bill of £44.27 for calls that should have been routed through Pipex. I then had another BT bill for £19.23 before Pipex reconnected me to Anytime. I have repeatedly contacted Pipex seeking a refund, without success. MN, Hampshire.

A.Tiscali, which owns Pipex, says that BT made the error, not it. It does not seem to have made clear to you that your grievance should have been lodged with BT, despite your repeated complaints. Tiscali initially credited your account with £15, then another £10 and now an additional £35 – which nearly covers the extra cost incurred with BT. You can, of course, also take up your complaint with BT to seek a further refund.

Q.Three times recently I have not received my monthly Barclaycard statements. It seems they have been sending statements to the wrong address. I have repeatedly complained. This is a security breach that worries me. DT, East Sheen.

A. Barclaycard apologises and says that the correct address is now being used. There was "an administrative error" at the company.

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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