Questions Of Cash: Nectar helps to finally get the ball rolling

Q. Nectar offered me a free treat last year and I chose its offer of a sphereing session. But when I tried to book this with SphereMania, I was informed the voucher was only valid for one person and it was not possible to book a session for one, so I would need to pay an additional £40 to make the booking. JS, Alveston

A. Nectar says that you were misinformed and that you are entitled to the sphere treat free of charge for yourself and someone accompanying you. Sphereing involves lying in a bouncy ball, but requires two people to participate – which is apparently what caused the confusion.

Q. I have two FSAVCs [free-standing additional voluntary contribution pensions] with Prudential that I want to cash in for an annuity. In early April I asked for a quotation, which arrived two weeks later. At the end of April I asked for the precise figures, but this had not arrived by the middle of May because Prudential had sent it to the wrong address, despite writing to me at the right address for 20 years. I was promised this would be sent again, but by the middle of June, this still had not arrived. My phone conversations were with its call centre in India, who told me they had no contact number for the UK operation that sends out the written information. My FSAVCs were transferred into a holding account in April following my initial enquiry and are making no money during this fiasco. I am very angry. LD, Aberdeenshire

A. Prudential apologises and gave us a statement. "While our network of trained, carefully monitored call handlers are committed to delivering the highest standards of customer service irrespective of location, we are always looking at ways in which we can improve the service we provide to our customers. Customer feedback is extremely important to us, so we have assured [your reader] that we have noted her comments and will use them as part of our ongoing review of our customer contact strategies." Given Prudential's handling of your requests, you have switched your business to Canada Life, which you report is providing a much higher quality of service.

Q. After Northern Rock's problems, I want to put my money in a building society, not one that has converted into a bank. Can you give me the names of some? JG, Bath

A. The Moneyfacts best-buy tables show a number of building societies offering highly competitive savings products. These include the Principality Building Society (offering 7.15 per cent on fixed-rate bond, over 50s only, or 7 per cent on its regular saver bond); the Coventry (6.2 per cent on fixed-rate accounts, over 50s only); Kent Reliance (5.65 per cent on fixed-rate accounts, over 60s only); Market Harborough (5.4 per cent, over 60s only); Leeds (5.35 per cent, over 50s only); Skipton (6.8 per cent, regular savings); Yorkshire (6.35 per cent, regular savings); West Bromwich (6.2 per cent, no-notice savings account); Manchester (6.12 per cent, no notice); Chelsea (6.1 per cent, no notice); and Beverley (5.5 per cent, no notice).

Q. I have received a letter from Tiscali saying that I owe it £230 and threatening to send in bailiffs to collect the debt. I had a contract with Tiscali over a year ago, which I terminated because of problems, including them taking money that I did not owe from my credit card account. I have written asking why they are claiming this money, but I have not had a reply. GA, by email

A. Tiscali says that you cancelled your account four months before completion of the minimum one-year term that you signed-up for. Your balance reflected charges for the balance of this period, plus charges accumulated in July and August last year, which Tiscali says you did not pay. As a gesture of goodwill, Tiscali has written-off the balance on your account.

Q. I bought an MP4 player online in November for £56.93 from, using my Smile credit card. I then found the item was not in stock,so I cancelled and was sent a credit note. But the MP4 player arrived anyway. When I called Computersupermarket, I was told to post it back and send the receipt for postage and it would refund me the £56.93, plus £4.75 postage. I have since phoned about 40 times trying to get the money back, but without success. Computersupermarket says it has credited my account, but there is no trace of this. Can you help? SJ, London

A. When we phoned Computersupermarket on the number displayed on its website, we had a message saying the phone number did not accept incoming calls. When we emailed, the email bounced as undeliverable. We asked Smile to refund the amount to you, which it has done as a goodwill gesture, even though it is outside the time limit under which it can reclaim the amount from the trader.

Q. We are getting annoyed with the add-ons imposed by Ryanair. If you book a flight to the same destination on different days of the week, the taxes and fees are different. If you try Prestwick to Skavsta on a Friday, the fees and taxes are significantly higher than for a midweek flight. Surely fees and taxes are fixed. GF, Coldstream

A. Ryanair gave us the following statement: "Ryanair fares do not include any 'add-ons', unlike BA's fuel surcharge. Any additional services on Ryanair are optional. The reason why the 'taxes/fees' amount can change is that we regularly absorb some or all of these taxes in order to arrive at low tax inclusive seat sales of £10 or £20 one-way."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS;

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