Questions Of Cash: Insurers right to insist on seeing licences before settling claim

Q. I had a road accident in December 2006. Nationwide, my insurers, will not settle the claim. I think this is because some of the damage seems to have been incurred while the car was in for repair. Nationwide had not kept a full record of my report of the accident and the extent of damage reported. It has sent me just two payments of £150 and £200 to settle a claim for a car that was written-off. Now Nationwide has asked for the MOT certificate, a copy of the insurance certificate and a copy of the driving licence for every person on the insurance. At one point Nationwide threatened to close the file unless I produced all the documents. If it needed all these documents, why did it not ask when I made the claim, rather than six months later? I feel Nationwide is trying to push me around.
JK, London.

A. A spokesman for Nationwide said: "Nationwide and [the reader] agreed that the vehicle concerned was a total loss valued at £4,145. As with all total loss payments, Nationwide requires a copy of the customer's MOT and driving licence before any payment can be made. Since May 2007, Nationwide has sent repeated written requests for the paperwork." As a result of our intervention, Nationwide is willing to pay you an additional £350 as compensation for the delays in settling your claim and agreed to drop all its requests for documentation, apart from your own driving licence. You can take this to your local Nationwide branch, have it copied there and immediately returned to you. We share your opinion that asking for driving licences for other people listed on the policy seems excessive, but it seems entirely reasonable to us that you should be expected to produce your driving licence. However, you disagree and demand that you are paid without showing this. We are therefore unable to help you further. If you wish to pursue your complaint, you may take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service – but we would be very surprised if it took a different view from us.

Q. In December last year I visited an Alliance & Leicester branch and opened an Issue 3 ISA with £3,000 and also transferred into it my holding in another A&L ISA. In January I received a scribbled note from the branch asking me to sign a new form as they had accidentally shredded my signature. This I did. In February I received a letter stating that as I had not returned the application form, my account could no longer be considered an ISA and had been invalidated. I visited my branch, where the manager promised to sort this out. The next day I had a phone call from him suggesting that I instead open an Issue 4 ISA and transfer the funds to it, as it was paying a higher rate of interest. I had a another form to sign and return, which I did. On checking my account a few days later I found both Issue 3 and Issue 4 ISAs had been opened, but the cash in the Issue 3 ISA had not been transferred. I phoned customer services, which said this took several days. But still no transfer took place, despite repeated phone calls and letters. Customer services told me that no application for a transfer had been received. I signed and returned another form. But A&L then said the application form had not been received – and that the cash was frozen, so I could not move it to a more reliable financial institution. My branch has not replied to my messages. A&L has now lost three application forms and I have spent more than £10 on calls to it, listening to piped music. What do I do next? RF, Bristol.

A. A&L says the explanation for the problems is more complicated than you suggest. It claims that on two occasions you filled in application forms using the wrong date, and that this is the reason for much of the hold-up. However, this does not explain why A&L told you on the phone that the forms had not been received, nor why your branch shredded your form. Recognising that it has performed badly, A&L has sent a staff member to your home to get the right forms filled out, signed, with the correct date and hopefully not lost. It has sent you £10 for your phone calls, £50 as compensation for its errors and a hamper as a goodwill gesture. A&L says that "on this occasion our service did not meet the high standard we aim to achieve". Regular readers will note that this is not the only time it has failed to do so.

Q. My son used to have an Egg credit card, but paid off the outstanding balance and cancelled his card when he lost his sight last year. Despite several letters to the parent company, which is now Morgan Stanley, and phone calls by me, he continues to receive demands for the payment protection insurance – with additional charges for non-payment. PG, Hungerford.

A. Goldfish is unsure how problem arose, but has agreed to write-off the balance on the account.

Q. I am writing on behalf of my daughter's partner. His electricity meter was renewed recently and the charges for electricity increased sharply. npower told me this was due to arrears of £500 that had built up since charges were increased, but the meter not adjusted. However, the operator also told me that since the property was only occupied from March, 2006, he could not see how so much arrears could be charged, since the change in tariff was quite small. A large amount of arrears was apparently added to the account in June 2007, and it appears likely that a significant proportion of this was accrued by the previous occupant. DM, Scunthorpe

A. npower says: "The debt on the meter resulted from a combination of increased energy consumption, increased tariffs and bills calculated using estimated meter readings. As a goodwill gesture, we have reduced the debt from £558 to £70."

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