Q. My daughter has a long-standing complaint against NatWest over bank charges. She went overdrawn by a small amount while on Job Seeker's Allowance, the bank's charges mounted and she eventually owed £2,500. She has never been given a clear statement of how the charges were arrived at. She took the case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), but has been told the case cannot be dealt with until the court case next year decides on what bank charges are legally allowed. Yet NatWest has appointed a debt collecting agency to chase the debt, which is threatening to send in bailiffs unless she pays up – which she cannot afford to do. DO, Bath.
A. Since your letter, you have advised us that the FOS has reached an agreement with NatWest to write off the debt, which now stands at about £3,000. But your daughter's case highlights an important question – are banks continuing to pursue debts that arise from bank charges, without waiting for the court case to determine whether they are legal? NatWest cannot comment on your daughter's situation without knowing her name and address. Your daughter does not want us to provide this in case it jeopardises the agreement reached through the FOS. We asked NatWest what its general policy is on the collection of bank charges, but it says it can only discuss this in relation to the specific circumstances of a customer. We invite other readers to tell us if banks are pursuing them for bank charges, without waiting for the outcome of the court case due early next year.
Q. I rent an apartment, which comes with access to a gated car park. Each flat has an assigned car parking space, with a permit. The permits expired at the end of September. At 5am on 1 October, about 20 cars were clamped because the permits had just expired, with a demand for £150 to release the cars. New permits were only available through a security company, whose office closed at 4pm. Our landlord was informed of the need to get a new permit, not us. PR, Salford.
A. The company that clamped the vehicles, CPS Enforcement, says that the fact you were not given sufficient notice to collect new permits is a matter between you and your landlord. It says the new permits were sent out by its office three weeks before the old ones expired. The company has been, to put it politely, very punctual in its application of the rules, but it does not seem willing to refund the sums collected for the release of the cars of you and your fellow residents. Ricki Oliver, chief executive of CPS Enforcement, told us that because of the strength of complaints about the clamping it was now establishing an appeal procedure. Grounds for appeal include unfairness in the application of the rules. We suggest you lodge an appeal on this basis.
Q. I opened a Halifax current account in April 2007, because of an advertisement promising a £100 bonus if I paid £1,000 or more monthly into an account. I have been doing this for six months. But I have been told that because I cancelled the Halifax-organised transfer of direct debits and standing orders from my previous account with Alliance & Leicester, I would not be eligible for the £100. I cancelled the transfer because it was taking too long. Halifax never told me that by doing so I was losing my right to the £100. Halifax appears more concerned about the technicalities of the transfer than honouring the spirit of the agreement. NL, Sheffield.
A. Halifax says that a condition of the £100 incentive payment was that it would transfer your credits and debits from your old account and you breached that condition. The reason for the delay in making the transfers, says Halifax, is that you did not have funds in your new account to honour your direct debits and that the delays were caused by your failure to respond quickly to its requests for the funds to be placed in the account and in completing forms of authorisation. But Halifax accepts that in its correspondence with you it failed to state that by taking over responsibility for the funds transfer yourself you were losing your right to the £100. Because of this, as a gesture of goodwill, Halifax is crediting your account with the £100.
Q. In July my sister bought a bed from Alfred Goslett Furniture in Surrey, paying £309 in cash. Sadly she died less than a week later, before it was delivered. I am the administrator of her estate and I have asked the shop to make a refund. It refused to do this, but promised to send a credit note. Despite repeated requests and promises, this has not arrived. I have spoken to the Citizen's Advice Bureau, which says that legally the shop has no requirement to either make a refund or send out the credit note. EB, Horsham.
A. Alfred Goslett Furniture has now sent you the credit note.
Q. Our five-year-old son has received the £250 Child Trust Fund voucher. Our daughter is just 18 months older than him, but is not entitled to a voucher and is jealous of him. Can we put £250 into a similar account for her, using our own money instead of the Government's? KJ, Bristol.
A. Yes, there are several accounts that enable you to do this. The Children's Mutual specialises in this type of account, offering the Youngster Bond Extra savings plan for your situation. The plan runs for 10 to 25 years, with investment growth free of income tax and capital gains tax and final payout likely to also be tax-free.
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