Questions of Cash: Is T-Mobile allowed to block our phone and not tell us?


Q. My husband and I have mobile phones with T-Mobile on a pay-as-you-go basis. My husband's phone is hardly used. I went to Grenoble for a few days when I was feeling unwell. I sent text messages to say I was much better but my husband never received these and became worried. When I came back, we found that T-Mobile had blocked his phone which had 37 of credit on it because it had not been used for six months. It cost us 10 to unblock. Is this legal? We were never told about it.
JS, Leeds
.

A. T-Mobile has refunded you the 10 unblocking fee. However, it says it is normal practice to suspend a service that has not been used for 180 days. It said: "Under the Communications Act 2003, General Condition 17 imposes a legal obligation on T-Mobile to use all numbers allocated to us efficiently. If a chargeable transaction isn't made on a pay-as-you-go SIM within a 180-day period, the number is suspended; within the next 90 days the customer is able to contact T-Mobile in order to restore the service. Eventually the number will go into hibernation, quarantine and be allocated to another customer."

Q. In August, I received an invoice from Orange for a handset I did not order, for delivery to an address that is not mine. At the same time I noticed that I could view online sensitive billing information for two other accounts that were not mine. I notified Orange, which said that an 'account error' had occurred. Despite numerous subsequent calls I have received a bill for 424 for the handset and calls from the two other accounts. I disputed the bill and was told I could continue to use my phone while an investigation took place. Despite this, I was cut off and only reconnected when I complained strongly. I have now written, but had no reply. DQ, Belfast.

A. Orange has removed the wrongly assigned mobile numbers and the handset from your account, correcting the bill. As compensation it is crediting you with the value of six months' line rental.

Q. I renewed my O2 phone contract in February through CarphoneWarehouse. Instead of taking a new handset, I accepted a 150 rebate. I have still not received this. GS, Wokingham.

A. CarphoneWarehouse has transferred the 150 on to your credit card account.

Q. I have been trying since the beginning of April to insure my husband with AXA PPP healthcare. It has only just issued the cover, because of its slow service. He has just received his welcome pack and I assumed AXA PPP would charge me from the next due payment date. Instead it is claiming premiums for July, August and September.This is unacceptable as during these months he had no information to say he was covered. LB, Workington.

A. AXA PPP has apologised to you and sent you 225.36, repaying the first three months' premiums.

Q. I am threatened with debt collectors from CPM Asset Management, which says I did not pay property management fees for April and May. I have sent proof of payment from my bank, Barclays, to CPM. CPM refuses to accept it received the money. MA, by email.

A. The money left your Barclays account, but failed to reach the correct account at CPM (part of the troubled Erinaceous property group). A clerical error at Barclays meant that the destination account number was wrongly transcribed. Initially, an alert clerk at CPM's bank, HBOS, spotted this and manually corrected it. Unfortunately, the clerk did not notify Barclays of the error HBOS says it is normal procedure not to notify another bank where the amount concerned is regarded as small. After two months of manual corrections, HBOS ceased to spot the problem and payments were then credited to the wrong CPM account. You repeatedly contacted CPM, sending it your bank account statements proving the payments had been made, yet CPM failed to investigate the matter. Barclays made the initial mistake and instead of investigating, repeatedly insisted that it had acted correctly. Neither company has done well. Barclays, because it made the initial failure, is paying you 100 compensation. CPM is matching this, recognising that it compounded your difficulties. Both companies apologise.

Q. I have a Homecare agreement with British Gas for my boiler and central heating, under which BG provides free spare parts in the event of a breakdown. My hot water stopped and I called BG out under the breakdown service. The engineer said I needed a new heat exchanger, which wasn't covered as a free spare part under the policy since it was a hard water area and limescale had caused the part to stop working. BG is charging me 317 for the heat exchanger, in addition to the 216 per year under Homecare. I looked at the contract and the exclusion relates to removing limescale which is not what the engineer did. He replaced a part that had become faulty because of limescale. BG quotes a second exclusion where parts break because of a physical blockage where a customer has been advised to make an improvement I was not given this advice. LL, by email

A. BG accepts your argument and has withdrawn the charge. It says that on its initial visit its engineer should have advised you of the problem with limescale and advised you to take action to deal with it, but accepts that it failed to do this.

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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