Questions Of Cash: My lot with Cameo Auctions is not a happy one

 

Q. Cameo Auctions in Berkshire took a payment of £300.47 from my credit card in March, although I have not registered for any of their auctions for several months. MB, Stockport.

A. Our initial inquiries with Cameo Auctions went unanswered. Our most recent email was returned undelivered and the website is no longer functioning. A notice on the door of the business reported that it had ceased trading as the result of a police investigation into the activities of a former employee. Several other customers of Cameo Auctions have complained about charges being taken from cards and directly from bank accounts, according to an online complaints forum. It is reported that West Berkshire Council's trading standards department is investigating the business, but no one at the council was available to comment. You should contact your credit card issuer urgently and request a charge back, explaining the circumstances in which the payment was made.

Q. I took my Apple MacBook Pro in for repair last October because the graphics card had stopped working after showing minor problems for years. I twice told the Apple store in Regent Street during the warranty period and was reassured this was nothing to worry about. When the graphics card completely failed, I went back to the store and requested a free repair, despite it being out of warranty. The store manager refused. So instead I went to Cynergy IT Solutions in Goodge Street in London, which agreed to replace the graphics card for £380.

Later I found out from a friend that this problem is well-known and there has been a successful lawsuit in the US. As a result, I contacted Apple to seek compensation. The company rejected this, saying it had already repaired my computer free of charge. So I had paid Cynergy IT to carry out the repair and they had simply taken it to the Apple store! My requests for a refund were ignored. I have reported this to the police, who told me this is a civil not a criminal matter. I then went to trading standards, which suggested I wrote to demand a refund within seven days. But the store did not respond to this. MB, London.

A. We had some difficulty in contacting Cynergy IT, but eventually managed to do so. Ziad Albadarin, who runs the business, does not deny that Apple conducted the repair, but insists his charges to you were fair and reasonable. He emailed us to say: "At the time of repair, we did not know that Apple accept to repair the computers free. I have customers who also went to Apple with the same problem and Apple refuse to repair their computers… This computer has two logic board, first one new was fitted by us and after testing to found it overheating… so we took the computer to Apple to complain and after 40 minutes of persuading the Apple guy this is a manufacturer fault he accept to repair it... [In addition, the reader had] five or six times technical consultancy on one-to-one basis in our office and the last time he complained about the logic board I spent three hours from 5pm to 8pm while [the reader] was waiting."

He adds: "I would like to highlight a few of our charges and warranty: all repairs carries one-month warranty; our hourly charge is £89 + VAT; initial diagnostic charge [is] £25." Mr Albadarin said that the £380 charge represents an extended warranty, requested by you, at a cost of £99; two hours' service charge at £89; a diagnostic charge of £20.80; and a replacement logic board, costing £82.80. All these costs are subject to VAT on top. We calculate that as being a total of just under £350 and so explains most of your costs. You clearly remain unhappy with this, disputing much of this explanation, though you say you would be content to pay 30 per cent or so of the charge levied, with the rest repaid.

That proposal has not been accepted by Mr Albadarin. Your options now seem to be limited to accepting his explanation and charges, or else taking a case to the Small Claims Court seeking a full or partial refund. Procedures for taking a case to the Small Claims Court are straightforward and details are published at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/ManagingDebt/Makingacourtclaimformoney/DG_195118. Apple says that customers with these problems should seek help from its retail centres. Guidance on this is published at http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2377?locale=en_GB&viewlocale=en_GB

Q. My father-in-law is in an expensive care home. The manager was very vague about fees and conditions when we visited before he was admitted. The contract we signed specified payment of "community fees" of £1,500, which is a one-off contribution towards the maintenance of shared areas. I now find that other residents are not charged the community fee. I have complained to the care home but it refuses to answer my questions about how many residents pay the community fee. I also find that not all the residents pay the same for each room. The home says this depends on location and size. What can I do? AN, by email.

A. We can see no reason why the care home cannot negotiate different charges according to residents' needs or ability to pay. Indeed, it is common for private paying residents to be charged more than are local authorities, which may negotiate lower prices for a group of residents. Care homes are regulated by the Care Quality Commission, but it is responsible for regulating the quality of homes, not their prices. Given the high cost of residential care, it is important to negotiate properly before agreeing the contract and its terms. We offered to take the matter up with the care home concerned, but warned this could create problems for your relative. You have accepted this view, and therefore not provided us with the name and address of the home.

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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