Questions Of Cash: It's Barclays vs Carphone in a debit dispute. Guess who lost?

Q: I bought a mobile phone online from Carphone Warehouse in the spring. A monthly direct debit was set up and the first payment of £32 taken from my account. But Carphone Warehouse claimed this payment was rejected and required me to pay it again - which I did. When I spoke to my bank, Barclays, it insisted the sum had been paid. Each says the other has the money. Who has?

AA, by e-mail.

A: Initially, we had the same experience - Carphone Warehouse and Barclays each blamed the other. Eventually, we established that in your initial payment instruction online, you accidentally inserted your credit-card number in place of your current account number, sparking months of confusion.

There remains a disagreement between Carphone Warehouse and Barclays about what happened next - but Carphone Warehouse now accepts that it collected an extra month's direct debit and has repaid £32 to you.

We are concerned at the volume of complaints we receive about Carphone Warehouse. This - on top of Ofcom's criticism of it for making "silent calls" (because its computers dial too many phone numbers to be handled by its call-centre staff), and a fine of £245,000 from the Financial Services Authority for failures in its sales of insurance - suggests that the company needs to sort itself out.

Q: I bought a Viyella jacket in its Chichester store for £31.20. When the bill came from Clydesdale Financial Services in early September, I inadvertently made an internet payment transaction of £3,120. I immediately spoke to Clydesdale FS, which said it could do nothing until the payment was processed - in the meantime, my bank has charged me £25 a day for going overdrawn.

When Clydesdale FS did receive the money, it said it would take three to five days to process a refund. But it has taken more than 10 days and by the time the cheque is processed by my bank I will have been overdrawn for weeks.
LH, Hampshire.

A: This is a timely warning - in the run-up to the Christmas internet shopping season - of what happens when internet payments are treated with insufficient care. Clydesdale Financial Services, part of Barclaycard (Clydesdale Bank is unconnected and part of the National Australian Bank), apologises for the misinformation suggesting that a payment could be cleared in three to five days. You should have been told that it would be seven to 10 days. By Barclaycard's calculations, it took eight days - but allowing for postal delivery and cheque clearance time, you were overdrawn for longer than this. As a contribution to your financial loss, Barclaycard is sending you £25 as a goodwill payment.

Q: Since I moved to my home four years ago, my electricity supplier British Gas has undercharged me, because of its use of estimates. I now face a bill of £1,133.78, with BG offering just 10 per cent off for inaccurate billing - even though it can access the meter. I believe I have now been overcharged, as I use very little electricity. I have asked for the meter's accuracy to be checked. Before I moved in, a four-person family paid only £83 a quarter. BG has twice failed to attend as arranged to check the meter, when I have taken time off work.

Yet BG has threatened me with legal action for non-payment of the bill, despite promising that my bill would be suspended until the meter was checked.
PA, Newport.

A: British Gas has agreed to write off half the balance - £566.89 - in recognition of its failure to resolve this matter quickly and the inconvenience this has caused you. It has now installed a check meter for three months.

A 2 per cent variation is regarded as within tolerance limits, but if your electricity meter is found to be overcharging by more than 2 per cent, your bill will be further credited to cover this.

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