Questions Of Cash: 'Should I take early retirement – or wait?'

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Q. I am 58 in May, and I have been with my employer for 25 years. My manager has suggested I take early retirement and work part time. This seems too good to be true, giving me either a pension of £14,000 a year, or £12,000 plus a £50,000 tax-free lump sum – which would be £2,000 less a year than if I retire at 60. If I carry on part-time working I could still take the offer, plus pro-rata salary. DR, by email

A. Trevor Simms of Birchwood Investment Management Ltd suggests caution. "The offer is appealing, but could leave you worse off in later years," he says. "Early retirement would reduce your pension income by £2,000 a year for the rest of your life and is a high penalty for taking your pension two years early. Paying off your mortgage early would save you £6,240 in interest payments and you would receive £7,140 additional income after tax, some of which would be charged at the 40 per cent higher rate of income tax. In the two years to retirement age you would be £13,380 better off. But even if you saved all the additional income, you are likely to have used up all the capital by the time you are 73."

Q. I wanted to join a reputable dating agency and chose Datelineonetoone. I filled in my details online and paid £295 by debit card. This should have enabled me to use the website, but didn't. So I emailed customer services, who took my details again. When I received my bank statement I found the £295 had been debited twice. Repeated requests for refunds have only led to promises for a cheque to be sent. ST, Manchester

A. Datelineonetoone has now refunded the overpayment.

Q. I booked a holiday for a party of four with Kosmar, choosing accommodation suitable for a disabled member of the group. Without consultation, Kosmar changed the accommodation to rooms unsuited to his needs. But Kosmar refuses to refund the £400 deposit. VJ, Cheshire

A. Following our intervention, Kosmar has fully refunded the deposit.

Q. I was persuaded in January by an agent of MacAnthony Realty International (MRI) to buy two apartments in Berlin. I was told that the reservation fee of €800 was refundable if I changed my mind. I paid the €800, but decided to withdraw when I realised I also had to join Capital Financial Partners (CFP) for a fee of €495 to open a German bank account and obtain a mortgage and that I had to pay a further fee for after-sales service. Far from "hassle free", as promised, I had to co-ordinate the notary, the lawyers, CFP and the after-sales people. I asked for a refund, but have had no response. KD, London

A. MRI say that the delay you suffered in getting a refund was the responsibility of a lawyer in Berlin and was not its responsibility, nor was it aware of the delay. When we brought the problem to MRI's attention it arranged for a prompt refund. MRI adds that the after-sales service is an option, not a requirement.

Q. I had a £50 Comet money-back certificate which expired in January last year and I only found in April. Comet has told me it is too late to claim. Can an exception be made for me to obtain the £50? PB, Holmes Chapel

A. The £50 "money-back" represents the refund you were entitled to for not claiming on your extended warranty if you made no claim. Comet has agreed to pay you the £50, despite the claim period having expired 18 months ago.

Q. I cancelled my contact lens subscription with Optical Express in March 2006, but it continued to take money from me on my direct debit. When I received a pack of lenses I checked my bank account, found that I had carried on paying and asked for a refund. Optical Express has not responded, but has repeatedly asked for an extra £20. AM, by email

A. Optical Express disputes your version of events, saying it has provided you with a detailed inventory of its transactions and holds records of phone conversations with you. It has now sent you the £60 to settle the dispute – and is reviewing its procedures.

Q. Four months ago I paid British Gas £366.31 in error, using my recently set up online bank account. I've never had an account with BG. Within 10 days I realised my mistake and asked for a refund, but haven't received one. JW, by email

A. The refund has now been sent to you, with an apology. BG had been unable to find any address for you to send the refund.

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; cash@independent.co.uk.

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