Questions Of Cash: O2 sold my shares, but didn't tell me

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A. O2 has followed the example of BT - which used to own O2 - in reducing the number of its small shareholders, which cost the company a lot of money to service in sending out investors' information and dividend payments. O2 - like BT - wrote to all its small shareholders offering a free share-dealing service to sell shares.

Shareholders who did not respond to the offer were assumed to want to take it up. As you did not respond, O2 sold your shares.

O2 says that while some shareholders were surprised to receive the payment, in most cases this was probably because the shareholders did not read the initial letter explaining the offer. O2's spokesman says: "We can't do any more than apologise."

Q. In July last year, I signed three contracts at the suggestion of a representative of British Gas, changing my supply of gas and electricity to British Gas and my telephone to Onetel.

I was given 21 days to withdraw the contracts without penalty. I decided against the change and spoke to British Gas, which said that I needed to contact Onetel direct. I wrote to Onetel on 15 July and received a reply on 2 August.

I then received a bill from Onetel for £3.95, which I assumed was a mistake. I have now received a further bill for £10.51, which included a £5 late payment fee regarding the £3.95 bill.

My latest letter seems to have been ignored. The rate of increase on the account is alarming. How do I stop this?
LK, Rayleigh

A. A late payment charge of £5 on a £3.95 bill is pretty steep - a rate of a bit over 1,500 per cent a year. It makes it worse that the bill should not even have been sent out. Onetel has apologised for the error and cleared your account, and is sending you £20 in compensation. There has been a stream of letters to The Independent complaining about Onetel - a sister company of British Gas - which shows no sign of diminishing.

Questions of Cash cannot guarantee to respond to all queries, and cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; cash@independent.co.uk.

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