Questions of Cash: Mobile firm sorry for giving RAF officer the runaround


Q. I started a 24-month mobile phone contract with T-Mobile, now part of EE, in January 2012. I am a serving officer in the RAF, so before agreeing the contract I asked whether I would be able to suspend the contract and monthly bills when I was deployed away from the UK and unable to use the mobile. I was promised this was possible. The period of suspension would be added on to the end of the contract, so I would still pay for a full 24 months. I agreed the contract on this basis.

I am now about to deploy away for four months serving my country. But when I spoke to the EE call centre, I was told it was impossible to suspend the contract and this never had been possible. I requested a manager to return my calls, but no one has done so. I went back to the store where I signed the contract and was again told the suspension was possible. I phoned the call centre again, but it is still not returning my calls. I am out of pocket and spending my last days before leaving trying to sort out a mobile phone contract. KT, Shrewsbury.

A. This is now resolved satisfactorily, with the contract suspended for the duration of your service overseas. A spokesman for EE says: "The account has been frozen from the date originally requested. We have offered to waive line rental for three months from the reactivation date as a gesture of goodwill. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Q. My friend went on a P&O Cruises liner, the Aurora, in late summer aged 91 and fit. While he was there, he contracted norovirus, spent three days in the liner's medical centre and was given a bill for treatment of £1,700. P&O Cruises insisted he pay before he left the ship. Nor could they provide a wheelchair for him to disembark: passengers had to assist him off and in doing so destroyed his expensive suitcase. Yet when there was a norovirus outbreak on another P&O Cruises ship, the Oriana, the company agreed to meet the medical expenses for about 400 passengers afflicted. P&O Cruises refuses to provide any recompense. JC, Portsmouth.

A. P&O Cruises has reviewed this and refuses to change its position. A spokeswoman says: "Any passengers who require medical treatment on board our ships are charged accordingly as a matter of course. Having said that, it would be fair to say that we did take a different approach during cruise X221 on the Oriana due to the unusual situation that developed [where there was a major outbreak of norovirus]. However, as this was an isolated incident in [the reader's friend's] case, we would not be able to retrospectively adjust the charges that may have been imposed on passengers previously." P&O Cruises is not connected to P&O Ferries: the companies demerged in 2000.

Q. I own a second home in Edinburgh, where gas and electricity are supplied by Npower. On 4 January I received a letter from Npower regretting that I was moving to another supplier. I phoned Npower to deny this and was told that Co-operative Energy had informed them that it was to supply my electricity from 17 January. I had never heard of Co-operative Energy and certainly did not have any contact with them.

Npower advised me to contact Co-operative Energy to find out my meter point administration number or supply number, which I should then pass on to Npower to cancel the proposed transfer. Npower was to then confirm in writing that it would continue to supply my energy. I did not receive this letter, but assumed everything had been resolved.

But then I received a final electricity bill from Npower, repeating they were sorry to lose me. I phoned them again and was told that Co-operative Energy was already supplying electricity to my property, despite my insistence that I did not want this. I am concerned that the change of supplier was able to take place without my authorisation or any contact with me. HC, London.

A. Npower says it is "not at fault here at all … Co-op[erative Energy] took over [the reader's] supply without our or the customer's consent. We have put things right for the customer – switching can take up to six weeks either way. We'll bill the account as if she never left and her direct debit discount will not be affected."

A spokesman for Co-operative Energy said: "[This] property was a flat. We incorrectly registered meters at [the reader's] flat instead of a neighbour, who had requested to switch to Co-operative Energy. This is quite a frequent occurrence in the energy industry, particularly with flats as the numbering can sometimes be complex. An erroneous transfer process was initiated to return the meters back to the original supplier as soon as this was raised by the customer. The customer has received a full explanation and apology."

Q. I booked a medium sized car from Alamo to collect at Sarasota airport [in Florida], to fit two large adults, two medium sized adults and one small adult, plus one large bag and one small bag. I expected to pick up a Chevrolet Aveo or similar, but on arrival I was instead given a Fiat 500 and had to pay for an upgrade. While the Aveo has five seats, the 500 has four seats and is not "similar". Alamo has since changed its online descriptions of these cars to include them in different categories. I have been unable to obtain any reply to my complaints. PE, by email.

A. We raised the matter with Alamo in the United States – the Alamo brand in the UK is operated by a different business. We have been unable to obtain a statement from Alamo in the US, but the company promptly resolved your complaint upon our intervention. It sent you a suitable apology, accepted your complaint was reasonable and refunded you with $274.38.