Questions of Cash: Long, slow process dealing with Equitable over a cheque

 

Q. Last September, I was sent a cheque by Equitable Life for £5,206.24. The money was due to my father and the cheque made payable to him, but he died in 2008. My father never lived with me, yet the letter was addressed to me. No literature or explanation was sent with the payment and Equitable Life will not discuss individual queries over the phone.

I wrote to Equitable Life and was told the policy was in the name of both my father and my mother, who died in 2000. I am an only child and handled my father's probate, but I have no evidence that this pension was in joint names. Equitable Life told me that if I sent my father's death certificate I would receive a cheque. I sent a copy, certified by my parents' solicitor, but receipt of this has never been acknowledged.

In December I received a new request for my father's death certificate. I sent this immediately and this was acknowledged and returned, but still there was no cheque. I have looked at the process that Equitable Life is supposed to go through, which it has evidently not followed. The only way I can contact them is by letter and it usually takes three to four weeks to receive a reply. SM, by email.

A. We have also had difficulties with Equitable – getting a resolution involved us in more than 30 emails, plus phone conversations. Initially we raised the matter with Equitable, but it was later established that under the government rescue of Equitable Life, the matter is handled by National Savings & Investment. Your initial problem was caused by the Equitable Life records not showing that your father had died. Instead, the records showed him as living at your address – even though he never had. A letter should have been raised by the scheme administrators before payment to confirm details. This was not done and the scheme administrators apologise for this mistake.

The records also showed that the policy had been taken out jointly by your parents. This led to the need to obtain both your father's and mother's death certificates, or certified copies of these. Eventually, at the end of January, the payment of £5,206.23 was correctly issued to you – more than three months after the payment was initially issued in your late father's name. The scheme administrators apologise, saying: "It is clear that on this occasion the scheme have not provided the level of service which we would hope to provide." They add that in general the scheme administration is working well, with nearly 80 per cent of all eligible individual policyholders paid and with few mistakes and less than 0.8 per cent of eligible policyholders having cause to contact the scheme.

Q. I own an apartment which I let out. I bought the property with a mortgage from Platform Home Loans. I pay a monthly service charge to a management company, which includes building insurance cover. But Platform says the cover is not sufficient and has added a 1 per cent surcharge to my mortgage repayments. I am therefore paying twice for building insurance. DG, Liverpool.

A. There is a misunderstanding here: the 1 per cent surcharge is not connected to insurance cover. Rather, a 1 per cent loading fee was imposed on the mortgage because, says Platform, you took out an ordinary residential mortgage, when you should have sought a buy-to-let mortgage. Platform claims that you sub-let the apartment without permission from it and that you require approval to continue sub-letting. It says you have still not requested this approval.

In addition, Platform – part of Co-operative Bank – says you are under-insured and that you are being charged an additional £30.02 a month because of this. The additional cover required is against damage to the property and is in place to protect the mortgage lender, not yourself. While you have provided a copy of an insurance policy to Platform, the lender says this does not make clear that the cover relates to the property on which the mortgage was issued. The monthly payment of £30.02 will cease, and payments since November will be repaid, if you either take out an adequate policy, or else provide Platform with sufficient proof that the necessary policy is already in place.

Q. I bought my wife an Apple iPad for Christmas. I used the 0844 phone number provided with the package for "complimentary" support to enable me to set up email accounts, etc. I was appalled when I received my phone bill to find that I had been charged £25.27 plus VAT for that call. That is not complimentary and I was not advised at the start of the call that I was calling a premium rate chargeable service. I complained to the Basingstoke store at which I made the purchase. They declined to reimburse me and referred me to the Apple Online Store, which referred me to AppleCare's customer relations team. The only way offered as a means of communicating with that team was by phone – to the same 0844 number that caused the problem. I have written to Apple, but no one has replied. RB, by email.

A. The 0844 number you dialled is not premium rated and should be charged at 5p a minute. You used a fixed line, but your phone company charged you as if you had used a mobile number. You declined to allow us to contact your phone company, or advise which company it is, saying that you were concerned this would damage your relationship with the company. Instead you contacted your phone company yourself, which has given you an inadequate refund of £16, reducing the charge to 9p a minute – which is still more than you should have paid. You remain dissatisfied with Apple's behaviour, although it seems to us that Apple is not at fault, other than in failing to properly deal with your complaints. Unfortunately, Apple has adamantly and repeatedly refused to discuss this with us.

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