Questions Of Cash: Mobile thief dialled up £1,700 bill – and I've got to pay half

 

Q. I lost my mobile phone on Sunday 11 March. I expected to find it, so only called Orange asking it to block calls on the Tuesday. I was then told the phone had been used by someone else to run up a bill of £1,700. Orange insists that I pay this because I had not reported the loss within 24 hours.

I was unaware that the contract said I had to do this. I have written to Orange several times, unsuccessfully. Surely Orange should bar a mobile phone when the costs reach a certain point? This bill would take me seven years to accumulate on my usual usage. BS, London.

A. Orange has agreed to waive half the bill, but refuses to do more. A spokeswoman for Orange says: "While we hope to be able to resolve the majority of cases, it is the customer's responsibility to tell us as soon as their phone has gone missing. Only then can we prevent calls being charged to their account. This position is consistent across the industry and is in line with British law. In this particular case, the customer took over 48 hours to report the phone stolen. We also advise customers to treat their phones like they would their wallets and to make full use of the phone security PIN on their handset to protect their personal information and help prevent unauthorised use."

She adds that the company uses fraud prevention measures and is often able to detect a theft before a customer is aware of it. Presumably those measures did not pick up the theft and fraud in this instance!

Orange says that its offer to meet half the cost is "a suitable and fair resolution". You don't agree, and you may wish to complain to CISAS, the telecoms ombudsman scheme to which Orange subscribes. The CISAS phone number is 020 7520 3827.

Q. I took out a car insurance policy in February with eCar, via the GoCompare website. I had looked at car insurance quotations on GoCompare on 28 January. The quotation given by eCar was £479 with a nil excess. Based on this, I accepted and paid £479. When the documents arrived in the post two days later, the total excess was shown as £250 and not £0. I contacted eCar on 3 February to point out the discrepancy and ask that it alter my policy accordingly.

ECar replied that it never offers an excess of less than £250 to new customers and that, even if I had selected a £0 voluntary excess, a £250 compulsory excess would still apply on the policy. This was not made clear at the point of purchase. Under contract law, it is eCar's responsibility to ensure that GoCompare advertises the product accurately.

When I attempted to cancel the policy online, I was informed that the action could not be performed and I had to phone eCar. When I did so I was told that I would be charged a £75 cancellation fee and a £15 GoCompare administration fee. I could not afford to lose that much, so I felt trapped into continuing with the policy.

At no point was I informed that I was still within the 14-day cooling-off period and should have been able to secure a full refund. On 13 February, I posted documentation to eCar to validate the policy, some of which it lost. I had to resend documentation by fax, which it could not read. The underwriter refused to approve the policy, so I decided I had to cancel the policy.

When I phoned to say this, I was asked for details of my previous insurer, who was contacted, enabling the policy to be approved. By this time, I was very dissatisfied with eCar and decided to proceed with cancelling the policy. I have received a refund of £310.60 but by my calculations this should be £447.56 – so I am owed £136.96. MH, Oxfordshire.

A. We contacted both GoCompare and eCar. GoCompare's Anders Nilsson says: "We've looked into the customer's car insurance comparison results and can confirm that the quote provided by eCar did display a total excess of £0. ECar has confirmed that this was an error on its part and that this excess should have been honoured by the insurer." Karl Ellis of eCar explains: "It would appear that due to a system fault we advised GoCompare that [the reader's] excess would be £0. This error was identified at the time and corrected, with only a small number of customers receiving quotes that were affected ... As a gesture of goodwill, we have waived any cancellation fees and have issued a full refund."

GoCompare's Nilsson adds: "The '£15 Gocompare.com administration fee' that the customer mentions is not a charge that we levy, nor one that any of our partners should be imposing on our customers, and we have never come across such a charge being made before."

Q. I have received correspondence from companies promising to act on my behalf to get compensation for the mis-selling of PPI. I have never knowingly taken out PPI, but they have informed me it can be hidden within loans and credit cards. It seems too good to be true. BT, Derry.

A. Some claims management companies are writing, emailing and texting people in the hope that some will have taken out PPI –payment protection insurance – policies that have been mis-sold.It is unlikely that the companies contacting you have any detailed knowledge of your circumstances, or whether you have been mis-sold PPI.

You should check your financial products such as mortgage, personal loans and credit cards to see whether you have taken out a PPI policy and, if so, whether it was mis-sold. If it was, you should consider pursuing the matter yourself. Putting in a mis-selling claim is simple, and there is detailed guidance on the Which? website, www.which.co.uk. Claims management companies charge as much as 25 per cent of recovered premiums.

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: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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