Questions Of Cash: Paying the price for an innocent error
Saturday 15 March 2008
Q. I applied for an Alliance & Leicester premier current account and associated premier regular saver internet account in June last year. I was abroad from the end of the month until 23 July and returned to find eight pieces of mail from A&L, one of which told me my first payment to the saver account was due on 1 August. I contacted my current bank and arranged for £500 to be transferred to A&L and monthly thereafter. I received a letter from A&L dated 1 August indicating there were insufficient funds to cover a transaction – £250 to the Premier Regular Saver – and I was charged £34 for a failed transaction.
I contacted A&L and my current bank and eventually established that I had wrongly quoted the A&L sort code. The payment had been sent to A&L on time, but had been returned. I had used the sort code from the cheque book, but it turns out that a different sort code is needed for transfers. When I phoned A&L to discuss this, its first comment was that I wouldn't get the money back as the bank charges test case was imminent. Despite my explanation of how the problem had arisen, A&L said nothing could be done. I asked to speak to a manager and was told none was available. Several subsequent calls had similar responses. I have now had three more bank charges of £25, with a total in charges of £115. Can you get A&L to see sense? IT, Glasgow.
A. The problem originates with the way A&L applies sort codes and customer account numbers. A spokeswoman explains: "Alliance & Leicester's sort code is 72-50-0, the sixth digit is the same as the first digit of the customer's account number. The account number has nine digits and therefore when setting up direct debits or payments into an account it is necessary to quote an eight-digit version of the account number. This is the nine-digit number minus the first digit." No wonder you had difficulty filling in the forms correctly!
A&L explains "this information is explained on page 4 of the Welcome Pack, which would have been sent when the account was opened". The explanation is also at the front of all A&L cheque books. A&L seems to regard this as adequately explaining the situation – our sympathy is with you in missing this. However, A&L accepts that you made a genuine error and it is refunding the charges, which it calculates at £109, plus an extra £50 as a goodwill gesture. A&L disputed our suggestion that many people probably make a similar error, saying that "most customers understand" which sort code to use when communicating with other banks. Apparently, A&L's unusual use of sort codes is a legacy of its takeover of the Girobank 18 years ago, and it plans to introduce eight-digit sort codes to meet industry standards.
Q. I bought a guitar on an American website. I was unaware until contacted by FedEx that it had been holding the guitar in a warehouse at Stansted airport for several days. FedEx refused to release it until I paid £304 in customs and VAT charges. I paid this by debit card, which I do not have a receipt for, despite requesting this from FedEx several times. I have now had a demand from FedEx for £300, even though the £304 has been taken from my account. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to resolve this with FedEx's disputes department. VB, by email.
A. FedEx accepts that you made the initial payment to enable the release of the guitar. The problem was caused by FedEx raising an invoice to you for the wrong value. To apologise for its errors, FedEx has repaid you the full £304 and cancelled the incorrect invoice.
Q. I have had countless problems with Orange's internet service, which I need your help to resolve. I was with Freeserve, which was bought by Wanadoo, which was then bought by Orange. I was happy with the service until spring last year. I was then persuaded I should opt for an improved package which cost me less and gave me greater broadband width. Since then I have had repeated problems with email messages going to the wrong destinations or not being delivered. When I tried to resolve this with Orange I seem to end up with a call centre in India, speaking to people who are not very good and seem not to be properly trained. On two occasions I spoke to Orange, and its people insisted the problems were with my computer, but eventually it emerged that it was an issue of line failings, which took days to resolve. I am so fed up I now want to change service provider, but I need a code number from Orange to open another account, which I cannot get them to provide. BD, London.
A. It has taken several weeks to sort out what should have been a simple matter to resolve. We eventually obtained a statement from Orange, which reads: "Orange takes its commitment to customer services extremely seriously and we would like to take this opportunity to apologise to [the reader]. We can confirm that his account has been closed and a refund of service charges from August, along with a gesture of goodwill, have been sent to him for the inconvenience caused." We asked Orange to state what the gesture of goodwill was, but it said it was up to you to let us know – you tell us it was £50. Given your allegation that Orange has made at least 20 errors in its handling of your account, the sum might be regarded as no more than adequate. This is just one of several complaints we have had about Orange in recent months: as we have previously commented, it is time for the company to improve its customer service standards.
Q. We moved from Exeter to Budleigh Salterton in November 2006 and received a final gas bill from Npower of £134.67, less a credit of £47.13, leaving a total of £87.54 which we paid in April. We have been contacted by a debt collecting agency and threatened with legal action if we do not pay an additional £58.23. I have been trying unsuccessfully to get a response from Npower and the debt collection agency and want an assurance that we will not go on a register of bad debtors. LC, Budleigh Salterton.
A. Npower has written-off the balance of £58.23, informed the debt collecting agency and assures us that you will not have an adverse comment placed on your credit reference file. However, to avoid similar problems in the future, we suggest you pay your bills more promptly.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
iJobs Money & Business
$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer Office...
$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...
Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens