Questions of Cash: NatWest emerge with no credit in refund dispute

Q. I have been waiting for a refund from a company, LarkBay, that I bought goods from online in early January. I returned all four items and asked for a replacement for one of them, which I received two weeks later. I have since been unable to get hold of the company, which owes me £93. SE, by email.

A. We tried to contact LarkBay. Its website no longer functions and both phone numbers trigger a response that the "phone number is not in use". You paid for the goods by credit card, using a NatWest MasterCard. We requested that NatWest make a chargeback against the retailer to enable you to recover your money, but NatWest has refused. A spokeswoman says the "claim falls outside of the time allocated by MasterCard". NatWest argues it does not have an obligation under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which makes a card issuer jointly liable for the supply of goods, as you are not suggesting that the goods were defective. It explains you "cannot provide a copy of the terms and conditions of sale that clearly state a refund is available [to] return unwanted goods". NatWest therefore interprets the matter as a dispute between yourself and the retailer in which "the goods have been supplied, but the cardholder did not want them". The spokeswoman adds that if you have a similar problem in the future, you should contact the bank within the timescale that permits a chargeback. In case of MasterCard, this is 120 days from the date the goods are received.

Q. I am an American citizen and long-standing UK resident. I have to file both UK and US tax returns. I am looking for an accountant in the Greater Manchester area who could deal with both my American and British tax affairs because my elderly mother in the US will leave me an inheritance with several trust payments in dollars. DW, Manchester.

A. One of the medium-sized firms with a global presence – such as BDO, Grant Thornton, PKF and Moore Stephens – should be able to do this: all have offices in Manchester. BDO confirmed this was something it could undertake. It charges between £390 and £658 per hour, according to the seniority of the person required to do the work. The time taken would also depend on the complexity of the returns.

Q.The Co-operative Bank has given me an overdraft limit of £250 per month because of my "poor" credit rating. I checked my rating and found, to my astonishment, that I only had a "fair" rating because, it said, I'm not on the electoral register. But I've voted for 30 years and the Camden Register Office confirmed I am on the register. I've emailed CreditExpert, but not had a response. LR, London.

A. Experian operates the CreditExpert credit report system. It accepts there have been weaknesses in its use of electoral information and says it will amend your credit report to show that you are on the electoral register. This should lift you into its "good" category. However, the Co-operative Bank uses a different credit rating agency and your rating from Experian did not affect your overdraft limit. We attempted to resolve this with the Co-operative Bank, but it required further information that we were unable to provide as you did not respond to our repeated attempts to contact you.

Q. I am a student and have a bank account with RBS. It went a few pence overdrawn which I ignored. A few months later I checked again and it was £80 overdrawn because of charges, which are adding up every month. Is there a way to get the bank to cancel these charges? I do not have a big income. JF, by email.

A. RBS has refunded all the charges on hardship grounds, eliminating the overdraft, following our intervention. RBS points out that no customer should get into a situation of 'unarranged borrowing' if they carefully monitor their accounts.

Q. Four years ago, while living in lodgings, I took out a £3,000 unsecured personal loan. Due to ill health and work issues I stopped making repayments, moved to another part of the country and ignored the bailiff letters I received. I've now inherited a property: when I register the property in my name will the bailiff be allowed to claim against the house? AH, by email.

A. If you now have the funds to repay the outstanding loan, you are morally and legally obliged to honour your commitment. You should also not underestimate the quality of information management systems used by debt collectors to enable them to trace debtors – though this can mean they pursue the wrong people with the same name. Just pay the money.

Q. I want to clear old paperwork out of my house. But my mum insists I need to keep old documents for at least seven years, in case anyone makes a claim against our insurance policy – for example, if a postman tripped on the path. Is there a rule about how long we have to keep paperwork? SA, Leeds.

A. The Association of British Insurers says insurance companies do not specify that paperwork related to a policy should be maintained for any specific period. There is a time limit for submitting personal injury claims – normally three years from the date of accident – so you should be safe disposing of paperwork after this time. As for the tax authorities , you only need to keep records regarding your personal income and disposal of a home or other assets for 22 months from the end of the tax year to which they relate. The time limit is longer if you run a business – papers must be kept for at least five years and 10 months after the end of the tax year to which they relate. Failure to do this could lead to a £3,000 fine.

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:

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