Questions of cash: 'I'm a bit hung up about my phone being cut off'


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Q. I have two mobile phones, both with Vodafone, one for daily use and the other a tri-band phone for trips to the USA and kept in the car here for emergency use. My regular phone is on a direct debit PAYG deal; the other is simply PAYG with over £20 in credit on it. I check the second phone regularly, charging the battery and checking it still rings out, by calling the credit line and my home or other mobile. Vodafone has now terminated that subscription and "recycled the number", saying I have not made a chargeable call or topped up the credit within their timescale. The company says it has a semi-dormant period when I would be able to receive calls, but not make them. I have not, however, experienced this. I was able to ring out till very recently, although I accept that I haven't made a successfully connected and chargeable call for some time. Vodafone says it does not warn customers about the termination of their subscription and that it will not return my money.

SE, by email.

A. Mobile phone operators are under pressure from the regulator to recycle unused numbers, because of a shortage of new available numbers. A Vodafone spokeswoman says: "As the number was only recently disconnected, we are able to retrieve it. We will also refund the £20 credit that was lost on disconnection. We are sorry that [the reader] was inconvenienced, but our regulator, Ofcom, asks us to be "economical" with the issuing of phone numbers, so we recycle when we can. As you might imagine, PAYG customers don't tell us when they no longer require a number, so we have to make assumptions. If a phone hasn't been used for 90 days we assume the number is no longer wanted so it goes into quarantine. At this stage, the phone can usually be reactivated by the customer simply making a call. After 90 days in quarantine, the number is disconnected. We then wait another 90 days before reusing the number. We are unable to check how much credit is on a PAYG phone. To avoid disconnection, we advise our customers to make a chargeable call every month or so, checking that the battery is charged at the same time." Vodafone's terms and conditions warn that if a customer does not use the service for 180 days by making a chargeable outbound call then it may suspend the service, but will reconnect within 90 days if requested. Anyone having their service disconnected for this reason loses the credit balance.

Q. I requested O2 to move my fixed line phone service from our home in Burgess Hill to our new home in Chichester. I was promised by text message that this was happening. Ten days later it has still not happened, because, it says, of a "procedural error". Can you help?

BW, Sussex.

A. O2 tells us that the broadband was connected soon after we took the matter up with the company.

Q. In May I asked you to help me with a default report on my credit record file, which you were unable to get amended. But the reason for the default was that I borrowed £10,000 in 2006 from HSBC, which I could not afford to repay. That was because I was made redundant just three months after taking out the loan and also the cost of the interest and insurance on the loan made the repayments unaffordable. I now realise the payment protection insurance was not valid and think I should be able to reclaim this. I cannot get anywhere with HSBC's customer services department.

EZ, London.

A. We asked HSBC about your possible entitlement to a refund of your premiums and it then wrote to you offering to repay £1,737. You then contacted us again to question why the amount was not higher, saying you read in this column of another reader who recovered £3,000 in payment protection insurance premiums on a £10,000 loan. You pointed out that the letter indicated that the bank "cannot respond on a case-by-case basis" to all such enquiries and wondered whether this might mean you were owed more than you were offered. We have obtained a copy of the calculation used by HSBC. This shows the value of the loan you took out was in fact £7,500. The cost of the premiums you paid was £1,211.68. An additional £512.81 has been added to this, at a notional 8 per cent rate of interest. You have been given six weeks to decide whether to accept the offer. We suggest that you accept.

Q. I am having a problem with the AA. On 29 July my bank account was debited by the AA for £291 in payment of my membership fees. I then received my membership statement dated 29 July detailing cost and the total renewal cost was given as £212.87. It seems to me the AA should refund me £78.13.

FW, Rotherham.

A. The AA did make a mistake, but the size of the overcharge was much less than you calculated. A spokesman for the AA explains: "We mistakenly debited the incorrect amount in the first instance, but this has now been rectified. The confusion arose because the total debited – £291 – also included AA Breakdown Repair Cover. The Breakdown Repair Cover element was £75.50 and the breakdown cover itself was £212.87, totalling £288.37. We took £291 in error, so we have refunded £2.63 to his card."

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@

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