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Spend & Save

Questions of Cash: I was told to get on my bike in Amazon delivery mix-up


Q. I ordered a Raleigh Equipe racing bike from Rutland Cycling, through Amazon UK, on 31 July 2012 for £204, including delivery to me in Jersey. It was needed for my son's cycling holiday, so had to arrive by 27 August. Rutland Cycling advised me it had been dispatched. A week later I phoned to find out where it was and I was told the bike "had been delivered".

Rutland Cycling admitted its system does not monitor the delivery date – so it only becomes aware of a non-delivery when a customer complains. By this time, it had sold out of this model and offered me another bike – a Raleigh Strada – instead. I was told this was a better model and the catalogue shows this is a more expensive bike.

I received an email from Amazon advising the bike had been dispatched. A week later I phoned them again. They checked and then I received an email saying there had been a problem with customs. The courier says it returned the bike to Rutland Cycling because the paperwork was not in order. Rutland said it had been unaware the bike had been returned. The bike was then located in its warehouse and dispatched again by the same courier.

A few days later – just a week before the holiday – I phoned to say the bike had still not arrived. I was then told there had been more problems with the customs authorities and the bike might not be delivered on time. Rutland Cycling refused to provide any compensation. I had to buy a comparable bike at last minute, but those available locally were £350 to £400 and I did not want to pay that much as the bike would be ruined on a scrambling holiday.

I ended up buying a second-hand bike, but the tyres punctured four times on the first day. I received really bad customer service. I complained to Amazon, which said that its review team would be made aware of my complaint, but for data protection reasons it could not let me know the outcome of this. MH, Jersey.

A. We took this up with both Amazon and Rutland Cycling. Rutland Cycling's head of marketing Sally Middlemiss said: "We sincerely apologise for the issues that [the reader] had with her order. We're an independent, family-run company with over 30 years' experience in the cycle industry and we pride ourselves on delivering excellent service to all our customers, in our shops and online. We dispatch many bikes outside the UK without complication – however, on this occasion, errors were made with the dispatch of [the reader's] bike, leading to the delays. We were asked to guarantee a delivery time which unfortunately we could not do and so issued a full refund to avoid any further disappointment.

We can understand [the reader's] frustration and we're genuinely sorry that we've let her down. We have since made several improvements to our procedures for dispatching bikes internationally, including changing our courier company, to make sure this doesn't happen again. Finally, we are pleased to report that we have this week been in touch with [the reader] and offered her a replacement bike, which she has accepted." You have told us that you are happy with the response of Rutland Cycling, which is now selling you the Strada model at a substantial discount – for £150 instead of the usual retail price of £279.

A spokesman for Amazon said: "We want all our customers to have a great experience every time they shop on Amazon Marketplace and unfortunately, on this occasion, the Marketplace seller was not able to deliver this order and a full refund was issued. We do monitor the performance of sellers on Amazon Marketplace and this particular seller has received a high proportion of positive reviews from customers."

Q. I worked in Germany from 1966 to 1974, contributing to my "rentenversicherung" (pension insurance). This was taken directly from my pay. I recently sought to apply for my pension from the German government. It has refused to make any payment to me, claiming that a refund was issued to me in 1976. I never received any such refund. They have failed to provide any proof that the money was refunded. TT, by email.

A. According to the records of the German pension insurance agency, you applied for a refund of your contributions on 22 September 1976. The agency's records also show that 8,060 Deutsche Marks were paid to you on 25 February 1977, representing the refund of your contributions. A German court has refused to consider your submission seeking a payment of your retirement pension on the grounds that you cannot prove that you did not receive the contributions repayment.

The pension insurance agency's own detailed records from that time no longer exist, so it is not possible to inspect the paperwork to establish whether it is your own signature on the refund claim. Our repeated requests to speak to the agency went unanswered. We also attempted to discuss the matter with your employer from the time. However, it is not listed in phone or business directories, it is not shown as trading from the address that it used at the time you were employed and there are no recent references to it on the web.

The German Embassy in London can also find no current contact details for the business. We must therefore assume it is no longer trading. It seems to us that all options in trying to obtain this pension have now been exhausted.

Update: On 18 August in Questions of Cash we published an inquiry by a reader who complained that Santander had written to say it had withdrawn from its promised "free banking forever" on small firms' current accounts it had taken over from Abbey. We advised the reader to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. We are pleased to report that Santander has reviewed its decision and will continue to provide these bank accounts to existing customers on a free of charge basis.