Q. Several years ago, I loaded a Norton Security software package onto my laptop. A charge was debited from my credit card annually. Recently, the laptop failed completely. I tried to cancel my payment but Norton's website does not recognise that I have a subscription.
I was unable to phone as I need a reference number, which I do not have. There is no email contact address shown. The two support telephone lines were unobtainable. My bank tells me it cannot cancel the payment. I have bought another laptop, but am reluctant to load a new Norton package. WG, Jersey.
A. Norton has now phoned you, helping you install its latest software on your new laptop to your satisfaction. You are now happy to maintain your subscription. Norton advises customers to provide an email address when purchasing a product, which creates a way to communicate with it in case of problem.
We asked the company for clear instructions on how to cancel a subscription. A customer should go to www.mynortonaccount.com and click 'sign in'; then type in the email address provided on purchase, and again click 'sign in'; then click on the tab 'automatic renewal' and click 'off' for any subscription that should no longer be automatically renewed.
If a pop-up appears asking for confirmation of cancellation, click on 'turn off' where it says 'stay enrolled'. An email will follow to confirm the subscription is cancelled. It should also be possible to cancel the payment through your bank, but this can be difficult where a payee argues the contract remains in force.
Q. In a recent Questions of Cash [15 September], you answered a question about BT's 'cheque processing fee', explaining that it charges more to customers who do not pay by direct debit. What you failed to explain is that BT also charges customers a £3 fee for paying by direct debit. This is outrageous. WK, Exeter.
A. You say outrageous – we thought it odd. BT was eventually able to provide an explanation. The two invoices on which you paid £3 as a processing fee were apparently issued before a direct debit was set up, hence the charge.
The first invoice was issued on 15 May and the second on 13 June while the first direct debit transaction was conducted on 28 June. As a gesture of goodwill, BT has refunded the £6 charge. As we explained in our previous, related, answer, suppliers will be prevented from the end of next year from charging more for payment processing than it costs them.
Q. I took out a mortgage savings policy with Scottish Widows in 1998. I have paid in £20,557.80, but the most recent valuation shows a cash-in price of only £17,427.08. I have made a loss on this policy of over 15 per cent – though the policy did include some life cover, as well. I tried, unsuccessfully, several times to discuss this with Scottish Widows. RB, London.
A. Yours is a with-profits policy, which have typically performed badly in recent years. A spokeswoman for Scottish Widows says: "The fund was designed to pay a target sum at the end of the specified term. However this was not guaranteed and dependent on investment performance." Investment returns were predicted at 7.5 per cent a year but actual performance has not matched that.
Management charges and the cost of the life cover element of the policy further reduced the value. Scottish Widows explains: "The slower returns have also had an impact on the level of monthly charges applying to your policy. If investment returns slow, the sum at risk will be higher than allowed for in the original illustration and this will mean th e monthly charge will take up a bigger proportion of the premium paid.
At outset, the cost of life cover was approximately 20 per cent of the monthly premium paid. However, this charge now represents approximately 50 per cent of the total premium paid." Taking into account the charges and life cover, although you paid £21,243.06 in premiums, only £14,968.92 was invested in the with-profits fund. The present surrender value, including the terminal bonus, is £17,589.10.
Q. I lived in the Netherlands from July 2010 to August 2011, while at university there. I purchased a discount travel card at the end of September 2010 from the train network, NS Trains. The discount card was valid for a year and NS Trains would automatically remove money from your bank account for the next year's subscription unless it was informed that you wished to cancel your card.
Just before leaving the Netherlands, I phoned NS Trains to cancel the card. The employee I spoke to told me that the card would be cancelled, and I made it very clear that I was leaving the country and that my bank account would be closed. At the beginning of March 2012, I received three letters forwarded by the company that I worked for in the Netherlands.
These were all demands for payment – the first for €55 from NS Trains, the second from a debt collection agency, now demanding €86.50, and a third from the same agency saying I would be taken to court unless I paid €111.50.
NS Trains has no record of my phone cancellation and I had to pay €111.50 to avoid legal action. It seems the phone cancellation scheme is unreliable and NS Trains did not contact me by email, despite using my email address. Is there anything you can do to recover this money? GC, by email.
A. Nothing, it seems. We phoned NS Trains, which told us to email it instead. Our repeated emails were then ignored, as was our email to the debt collection agency. This is not the first time we have found it impossible to get either satisfaction or even an answer from a continental rail company. Readers are warned.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org