Questions of Cash: My Vodafone account was closed – but then the debt collector called


Q. I closed my account with Vodafone on 12 July, paying £92.76, including a £51 termination fee. I was told the account would be closed on that day. Yet on 2 November I received a bill for £36.19. Apparently the account had been merely suspended, accumulating a monthly fee.

I phoned Vodafone on 8 November and I was promised the account would be closed and the charges on the account cleared. But on 14 November I received a letter from Cap-Quest debt recovery agents demanding the £36.19. I then went to a Vodafone store, where the manager helped me and spent an hour on the phone calling four different numbers trying to get the account closed.

Eventually I was promised this would happen and asked to phone back the next week to confirm that it had. I was told that Cap-Quest would be informed automatically. But then on 16 November I received another letter from Cap-Quest stating that it was staging a collection escalation process. I phoned Cap-Quest, which said it would put a hold on the collection process until it heard from Vodafone. I have no confidence this will happen. JY, Kent.

A. Vodafone accepts that it failed to close your account as it should have done when you phoned in July. This led to charges accumulating and the supposed debt being put out for collection. A Vodafone spokeswoman says: "We're sorry this happened and we will feed back to the relevant team to make sure our processes are followed correctly. We will make sure there is nothing adverse on [the reader's] credit reference after 12 July when we should have closed his account. However, we cannot influence his credit reference before this date as his account went into the collections process for non-payment on two occasions – on 28 February and 27 May." Vodafone has agreed to pay you £30 as a goodwill gesture for your inconvenience.

Q. I have a four-bedroom property which I have been letting out for the past eight years. I have insured it with Zurich ever since I bought the house. I had wanted to move the insurance, but Zurich insists that it is in the lease agreement that the insurance must be with them. I am now paying insurance premiums of £816 a year, which is really too much even when taking into account that I have made two insurance claims, in 2003 and 2005. AH, Blackburn.

A. Both Zurich and we are mystified by this. Zurich insists that it is not aware of any reason why you should feel compelled to insure the property with it. A spokeswoman for the insurer explains: "We are assuming that when he cancelled the home insurance he has with us for his main home, we would've written to him to inform him that we can no longer insure his buy-to-let property, because we only insure buy-to-let properties belonging to our existing home insurance customers. This is clearly explained in all of our policy documentation and would have been clearly explained to [the reader] when he took out his insurance. [The reader] is free to insure his buy-to-let property with any other insurer and from the detail I have, I think he has misunderstood the letter we sent him."

Endsleigh is one of several insurers that specialise in offering buy-to-let policies – you can compare premiums from several insurers on one of the price comparison websites. We would hope that you could then cut your premiums significantly.

Q. My partner and I bought a second-hand Alfa Romeo 159 from E-motion Cars for £7,200. On the day of purchase I had to replace a flat battery, which the dealer grudgingly paid for. A warning light came on, but I was told the car had been thoroughly checked and no problems were found. I took it to a local garage, which warned me that the engine, brakes and wheels were in poor condition. I returned the car to E-motion, which found a problem only with the air conditioning, which it repaired. I was lend a small "runaround" as a replacement. It said that there was no major problem and that issues with brakes and wheels come under the category of wear and tear. They refused to pay for further repairs. ME, Hertfordshire

A Nick Penney of E-motion rejects all your complaints and says that it willingly, not "grudgingly", paid for the replacement battery. The warning light, he says, was the result of the battery being flat, and this light ceased to come on after the battery was replaced. He adds that all cars sold come with a full parts warranty for three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. E-motion says the main issue highlighted by the Alfa Romeo garage was the faulty air conditioning, which led to a compressor unit being replaced at the dealer's cost. It argues that it went to considerable effort to collect and return the car, lending you a high-quality replacement vehicle – not, it argues, a "runaround". It adds that it took the car to another garage, which could not find any major faults.

You, in turn, reject this explanation, claiming that the warning light remains on most of the time. We have since contacted E-motion several times to request a comment on this suggestion, but it has not responded in writing to our further inquiries, while continuing to insist in phone conversations that it has acted correctly and fairly throughout.

To try to resolve this, we then asked the RAC if it was willing to carry out an independent inspection, which it agreed to do, and for which you agreed to pay. We then emailed E-motion to ask if it would accept the findings of this inspection. Again there was no reply. We then phoned E-motion, which declined to accept our proposed solution. Nick Penney said: "We have been fair in this. Our first response was adequate. We have done what we needed to do." You now have the straightforward choice – you either accept the vehicle as it is, or you take the matter further through legal action.