Questions of Cash: Poor reception for digital TV package

Q. I bought a plasma TV in July, but found that with a communal aerial the reception wasn't good. I was told the only solution was digital TV through Virgin Media. I signed up for TV, broadband and phone package. The day before installation, Virgin Media told me it had not realised mine was a shared property. I was told a new installation date would be arranged. Nothing happened, but I have received a welcome pack telling me about the service I still cannot receive. MH, Bristol.

A. There were two problems installing the cables in your flat. Normally, shared accommodation cannot be connected, which is why you were originally told it was not possible to provide the service. But efforts were made to provide a service and a neighbour and your landlord gave permission for the cabling. However, when Virgin Media sent a technician, it was realised that your property is a listed building – laying the cables would be a breach of the listed protection. Virgin Media has now fully refunded you.

Q. I set up a dual-fuel discount with Lloyds TSB Ideal, for the supply of gas and electricity, paid by direct debit. Last year, our electricity meter was changed. In February this year, our next electricity bill arrived – for more than £1,600. Our supplier, Scottish Power, told me we had not been charged electricity for 26 months. I complained to the Ombudsman, who said Scottish Power had followed procedures. Scottish Power has taken two months off the bill and said I can pay over two years, but I am on Family Tax Credit and a low income. I would have to pay £187 a month but can't afford this. CAB has advised me to make a statement of income and expenditure and send it to Scottish Power. I did, but Scottish Power has refused to help further. BA, by email.

A. Your situation, sadly, is not unique. While Scottish Power has complied with the industry code of practice, you have been left in hardship because of the failure of Scottish Power and a previous utility company to bill you properly. As you found when you inspected old bills, you were previously only invoiced for your gas consumption, not electricity. Your circumstances have been made worse because your monthly energy use is £126, which is probably more than you can afford. Scottish Power is waiving your electricity charges for September 2004 to February 2005, which it is required to do under the code of practice because of the age of the debt. It has also now agreed to enter into an affordable payment plan and advise you how to cut your energy bills.

Q. I am 63 and self-employed. Having watched my Standard Life with-profits pension dwindle, I decided to withdraw it and reinvest in a draw-down plan with another provider. Standard Life quoted me a transfer value, then reduced the figure by £6,903 because I was retiring before the due date of my 65th birthday. I had never given them this date. AW, Cranbrook.

A. Standard Life says when you took out your plan, you nominated age 65 as your retirement date. As you are transferring before this date to an income draw-down plan, the amount transferred is subject to a market value reduction (MVR), ensuring the sum you get represents your fair share of fund value. If you'd transferred to an income draw-down plan at age 65, it wouldn't have been subject to an MVR. Standard Life insists your financial adviser was told the MVR would be applied and advised of "the values available" to you under the various options. We took this up with your financial adviser, who contacted you. You now tell us that you accept that your financial adviser correctly informed you of the situation.

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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