Questions of Cash: No dramatic profit from theatrical investment

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Q. I bought £1,000 of shares in London's Old Vic theatre five years ago, which I now want to sell. But the Old Vic tells me that I can only sell them if I can find someone to buy them.
KS, Westminster.

A. Colin Ingram, the executive producer at the Old Vic, tells us that as a result of the success of recent productions the theatre is willing to buy back your shares and he will contact you to arrange this. The Old Vic will normally try to put any person wishing to sell its shares in contact with a supporter wishing to purchase. However, shares of this type are a means of supporting the theatre, not financial investments.

Q. I have a Scottish Amicable endowment policy sold to me by Abbey National. Prudential, which now owns Scottish Amicable, says Abbey acted as financial adviser and it was Abbey's "responsibility to present (me) with the facts before (I) made a decision". Prudential also states: "All factors, including the risks involved should have been taken into account and explained to you by your adviser." But Abbey says: "We didn't give advice on whether or not these ways (of repaying a mortgage) were suitable for you. Abbey was not required to ascertain your attitude to risk." Abbey says it has no copies of any records showing what advice it provided, because it gave me none. That is the basis of my complaint - it sold the policy without advice or warnings. Where do I go from here?
DY, by e-mail.

A. Your policy was sold by National & Provincial in 1986, when consumer protection was weaker than it is today. National & Provincial was taken over by Abbey National in 1996. Abbey says that N&P sold policies without advice - merely explaining the repayment options and leaving the customer to make a choice. On those grounds, Abbey claims it has no responsibility. It adds that, as N&P was not a tied agent of Scottish Amicable, the Prudential has no responsibility for the sale. You appear to believe that the factual information from N&P failed to warn that an endowment carried a risk of under-performing. You should lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Q. I am 73 and had a small heart attack two years ago and some other health problems, which are under control. When I went on holiday last year, I found an insurer charging £30 for six days' cover, but other insurers refused to quote for me. This year I was quoted £200, £90, £80 and £30. Both Saga and Age Concern were not the cheapest and offered premiums that seemed very high.
BL, Corbridge.

A. Surveys have shown that consumers should not assume that specialist insurers will always offer the cheapest premiums. You did the right thing in phoning round. In some circumstances it may be necessary to phone as many as 10 insurers and brokers to be confident you have found a reasonable premium. A good broker may save you this work, but some quotes from brokers may also be high.

Q. A friend of mine has had prolonged difficulties with Bank of Scotland over an overdraft. She has tried hard to pay it off, but she has exceeded her agreed facility because of bank charges. We believe the bank has adopted a bullying tone and behaved unreasonably.
NF, Rosyth

A. Bank of Scotland accepts it has not always handled your friend's case in an efficient manner, and apologises. It has employed several agents to seek repayment of the debt, but says that it has strict policies to ensure that the agents do not use undue pressure. BoS adds that, on several occasions, your friend either failed to comply with agreed repayments, or else failed to keep the bank properly informed of her circumstances.

Any person who has an overdraft they have trouble reducing should consider converting it into a loan at a lower interest rate, with an agreed and affordable structure for repayment. A debt counsellor - for example, at a Citizens' Advice Bureau - may advise on this, and in negotiating with a bank.

Q. I have an information pack from ING Direct which states that the bank is authorised by the FSA. The FSA website indicates that it is authorised elsewhere in the European Economic Area. Who is correct? What compensation would I receive if the bank collapsed? Is it possible to find information on the credit ratings of various banks to make comparisons? How does ING Direct compare with UK banks?
FR, Lincolnshire.

A. ING Direct in the UK is authorised and regulated by the FSA under the name ING Bank. ING's British operations are also covered by the UK banking code of practice and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Under the FSCS, compensation is limited to £31,700 - 100 per cent of the first £2,000 lost and 90 per cent of the next £33,000. ING's parent Dutch company is rated by Standard & Poor's at AA-, which is equivalent to that of HSBC and superior to Abbey National. You can check banks' credit ratings by logging onto the website of the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's, www2.standardandpoors.com.

Q. I expect to inherit a house from the estate of my estranged wife, who died without making a will. I also part-own a property along with my brother and sister, which is my main residence. I am thinking of renting out the inherited house to avoid capital gains tax (CGT). How much would any CGT liability be?
SC, by e-mail.

A. Stephen Pallister, tax and trusts partner at the solicitor Charles Russell, says that you are likely to inherit, providing you were still married on your wife's death, unless another person has a claim on the estate as a dependant, or if a judicial separation decree was in force. "All capital gains on the house will be wiped out up to your wife's death, and you will take at the probate value on death," says Mr Pallister. "If you rent out the property and sell in a few years time, you will pay CGT on the gain between the death value and the value on the sale. The CGT main residence would not apply then unless you make it your main residence."

CGT is charged at the same rates as income tax, with the capital gain treated similarly to additional income.

* If you have questions, write to Questions of Cash, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail cash@independent.co.uk. We can reply only to letters published. Please send copies, not originals.

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