Questions Of Cash: Nobody accepts responsibility for my mother's faulty boiler


Q. My mother received a Warm Front, government-funded boiler installation through Heating Efficiency System Ltd in 2007, which included a two-year free cover with Warmsure. Since the new boiler was installed, she has had four very cold winters because the boiler was much less efficient than the old one.

At the time of the installation my father was very ill with cancer, the cold house made his condition worse and he has now passed away. Now the boiler has completely stopped working. Engineers from Carillion told my mother that the original installation was not done properly. I have spoken to Carillion, Ideal Boilers, Warmsure and Warm Front, but none accept responsibility. MS, London.

A. Heating Efficiency System is no longer involved with the Warm Front scheme. We have been unable to obtain any contact details for Heating Efficiency System. According to the Companies House register, the company has been dissolved. The current contractor for Warm Front is Eaga Ltd – formerly known as Ideal Boilers – which is part of Carillion. As the installation was not carried out by Carillion or any business which has been subsumed into Carillion, the company points out that it has no responsibility for the problems your mother has with the boiler. As far as we can establish, there is no business currently trading that is liable to put right the problem.

A spokesman for Warm Front says: "The Warm Front scheme does not provide funding for free aftercare beyond what is now a one-year service. In this case there has already been two years free after care, including service visits, so we are unable to fund any extension through the scheme. We do understand this will be disappointing and naturally we regret any difficulties it causes. Warm Front is designed to help as many vulnerable households as possible within the funding levels available, and this means the free aftercare provision is limited to one year. We do advise all customers of this at the outset and advise that they make private arrangements for cover when the policy expires."

Q. I had a boiler installed by Eaga Warmsure, but have had problems since November 2010. This has led me to have a number of maintenance visits trying to solve the problems. Repeatedly engineers failed to attend as arranged, or turned up without the right parts. On one occasion, equipment was left emitting smells and a discharge that caused my wife's eyes to go red and to be very painful. This caused my wife's existing eye condition to get worse, in our opinion. The problems with the boiler left our apartment cold, which was bad for our toddler son who was born 14 weeks premature. The insurer AmTrust has offered £1,100. We are not greedy people, but we believe this is an insult given what we have endured. CT, London.

A. The boiler was installed by Eaga, part of Carillion. We are told by Carillion that Warmsure no longer has any responsibility for your boiler. Cover for this was provided by the Home SOS scheme, which had been arranged through Barclays and is now underwritten by AmTrust. Barclays tells us that it ceased having any responsibility for Home SOS late last year, before you lodged your complaint. Barclays advises us that it regards the offer made to you as reasonable. You have decided, on the basis of this, to accept the pay-out which was offered by AmTrust.

Q. I have been a client of Hargreaves Lansdown for many years. It has now told me to transfer my business to another broker and has frozen access to my investments, the income from which I rely upon. Some of the funds I am invested in are only available through the Hargreaves Lansdown Vantage wrapper and to continue to have access to them I must sell them, repurchase them direct from the unit trust company at full initial cost and in the process lose my ISA tax relief on them. NH, Suffolk.

A. Hargreaves Lansdown is an execution-only broker and it believes that you require a broker that provides advice. Your portfolio is extremely complex, holding more than 200 investments – most of which could still be held through another broker, says Hargreaves Lansdown. It calculates that in the time you have been a client with the firm, it has serviced over 750 queries from you – which is inconsistent with its role as an execution-only broker. You say that most of these enquiries have not been to ask advice, but to request information.

Even so, this goes beyond Hargreaves Lansdown's specified relationship with a client. And the firm insists that many of your enquiries were asking it to conduct research on your behalf and to recommend investments. It describes your behaviour in lodging so many enquiries and complaints as "unreasonable". The firm adds that moving your funds to another broker would not have caused you to lose your ISA allowance and that it had agreed to waive all its normal exit fees. But you are clearly very distressed by the prospect of moving to another broker, which would involve you in significant costs.

On the basis of this, Hargreaves Lansdown has offered to allow you to continue as a client – on the clear condition that you act in a way that is consistent with its remit as an execution-only broker. You have promised to do this. Hargreaves Lansdown points out that it would only ever suspend its work for a client in very exceptional circumstances and has done this just once before. Its chief executive, Ian Gorham, adds that he believes you should take advice to reduce the size of your investment portfolio. "Such a vast portfolio will tend towards tracking indices very expensively and he is probably better off buying a small number of tracker funds and paying a lot lower annual management charges," says Mr Gorham.

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