Q. In September last year, someone strolled into the Highgate Village branch of Lloyds TSB and withdrew £2,400 in cash from our account, using only a driving licence as identification. They also conducted some transfers between accounts, using my cash ISA allowance. On the following Monday I was called by Willesden Green branch to ask where I was and was I withdrawing more cash. Lloyds TSB repaid the money into my account promptly. I asked for a copy of the fake driving licence to see if it had my own identification number. I was called by someone telling me that all proper procedures had been followed. I didn't believe him. My letters and phone calls have since gone unanswered. The Financial Ombudsman Service told me it is not concerned with lousy service, only with financial loss. Eventually, Lloyds admitted it hadn't taken a copy of the driving licence. It added that even if it had it could not give it to me on data protection grounds as, by definition, it was not about me! Lloyds offered me £40 for a new driving licence, but I want the bank to promise to train staff to prevent it happening again. SA, Twickenham.
A. Our intervention "worked like magic", you say, in getting Lloyds to treat you with respect. Lloyds says: "While, as he rightly points out, we refunded the fraudulent transaction promptly after it was identified, we appreciate that we could have kept him much better informed... Our process was not followed correctly originally at the branch... Local interventions are being undertaken to ensure no re-occurrence of this." Lloyds will pay you £80 for a new driving licence and to compensate you for your inconvenience. You have accepted the offer, but will close your account – ending your family's 46 year history of banking with Lloyds.
Q. Can you help me with my Abbey account? I am 20 and was sacked a couple of weeks ago. I am now unemployed and looking for work and having a hard time getting Jobseeker's Allowance. This month I will be charged £90 by Abbey, on top of about £500 in earlier charges. I asked for the charges to be refunded, but Abbey says these requests are on hold. I am in financial hardship and cannot afford these charges. I live with my parents and have to rely on hand-outs from them. JF, Lancashire.
A. Abbey agreed to refund £130.80 to your account as a gesture of goodwill. This now puts your account into credit. We asked Abbey to consider refunding the reported £500 of bank charges on the grounds of financial hardship. The bank disagrees with your calculation of its previous charges. But Abbey also says that it applies tests to determine whether a person can legitimately argue they are in financial hardship. Your pattern of high spending on non-essential items means that you fail its hardship test.
We previously obtained a refund of bank charges for you from Royal Bank of Scotland. There is clearly an underlying problem that you spend too much for your income. In particular, you need to take serious and urgent action to put an end to the £40 monthly charges from Abbey, which you clearly cannot afford. The bank suggests you discuss with it moving to a different account with a more appropriate charging structure.
You also have problems with serious debts which have arisen from taking out three mobile phone contracts simultaneously, in part to obtain new handsets when older phones stopped working. You told us that one of the contracts, with 3, had been a waste of money as you were unable to obtain a signal at either work or home and that you are now being chased by debt collectors for £150 in unpaid mobile charges. We took this up with 3 to see if some arrangement could be reached, recognising that the contract should have been cancelled at the outset. However, you have now stopped responding to emails from us and 3 to discuss these debts.
Your habit of unaffordable spending already seems ingrained, but needs to change if you are not to suffer from even more serious problems. The first of these is that you risk going to court in the near future for non-payment of a mobile phone bill.
You must face up to the realities of your income and spending. Failing to respond to attempts to resolve those problems only makes them worse. You should speak to a Citizens Advice or other debt counsellor as a matter of urgency. Abbey has also offered to assist with its own financial management advice service.
Q. I took out a mobile broadband deal with T-Mobile through Carphone Warehouse in October 2008. The internet connection was very slow and I felt it was not adequate for the fee I was paying and the service I was sold. I went back to the Carphone Warehouse two weeks later and tried to return it. I was told that the 14-day exchange policy does not apply to T-Mobile customers. I was not informed of this when I took out the package and it is barely readable on my contract. I have since been told that this is illegal, as if it does not fulfil the specifications and use it was intended for, which I feel it does not, I should receive a full refund. I have contacted both parties and had inadequate responses from them. T-Mobile informed me two months ago that it was dealing with my complaint, but I have heard no more. DO, Bexley.
A. T-Mobile and Carphone Warehouse have agreed that you can return the equipment via the Carphone Warehouse branch. T-Mobile will refund you all charges from the beginning of the contract.
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