Q. Last year I travelled almost every week between London City Airport and Dublin on Air France. Flights were regularly delayed and on one occasion I worried about my safety because other passengers were so angry at the departure gate. I wrote four letters of complaint, which were ignored. In March last year my luggage was damaged, I claimed for compensation and Air France promised to replace it with a similar case. A year later I am still waiting for this. SG, London.
A. We can sympathise with your frustration – Air France has been slow in handling our complaint on your behalf. Initially, Air France issued an apology for your problems, saying that some delays are inevitable and outside its control. It added that its records showed that you had been sent a replacement bag last November. It was only after we persisted with your complaint that it found the bag had not been delivered. We are assured that its agents are now arranging delivery at a time of your convenience.
Q. In February I signed up with Orange for its Home Max package of broadband, landline and second phone line, at £12 a month for six months, then £24 a month. But then Orange told me it was unable to proceed with the deal as I had failed a credit check. Yet I have never defaulted on a payment, or even been in debt. I tried to get an explanation from Orange, who simply referred me to the credit reference agencies Experian and Equifax, saying I do not have a credit rating. JH, by email.
A. The absence of a credit rating can be a problem. Companies feel reassured if they are told by a credit reference agency that a potential customer has a track record of entering into contracts and fulfilling them properly. The agency will confirm that a person is on the electoral register and appears to be bona fide. James Jones of Experian explains: "To some lenders, an empty credit report is almost as unattractive as one showing a trail of bad debt. Most use credit scoring to predict what sort of customer you'll be, based on how you've repaid credit in the past. As a result, an empty credit report makes you a bit of an unknown quantity and certainly less attractive than someone whose report includes several accounts that were repaid on time and in full."
He adds that failure to be on an electoral register can be the difference between being given a credit account and being rejected. However, Jones says that you can expect companies to be more open about why they will not approving an account than Orange was in your case. In fact, the whole problem is what Orange calls "an internal customer service error", which meant that your application "was incorrectly processed". Exactly what this means is unclear, but the good news is that Orange has now approved your application and is providing three months' free broadband to apologise.
Q. Tiscali was my internet service provider (ISP) for a short time in 2004 on a pay-as-you-go contract. During this time I signed up for a "spam blocker" for a £9.99 fee, which I paid by credit card. I switched ISPs the following year, but Tiscali has carried on taking the £9.99 each year, even though I no longer get a service from it. I ended up having to cancel my credit card to stop the payments, but I cannot get Tiscali to return the overpayments. Instead, it is continuing to demand the annual fee, threatening to send debt collectors. TW, Worcester.
A. Tiscali has now confirmed that it has recorded that your service is cancelled and is refunding £30 to you. It is conducting an internal investigation to determine why it did not automatically cancel the payment demand. We hope it will also try to find out why it could not resolve the matter when you originally complained.
Q. In early January we moved into a one-bedroom flat in Nottingham. At the end of the month we received a bill from British Gas demanding in excess of £235 for gas that we had supposedly used in three weeks. After about 10 phone calls, we are still receiving threatening letters – apparently because our gas meter is not the correct type. The most recent letter informs us that our gas will be disconnected if we do not pay the balance, but £235 is clearly extortionate. JP, Nottingham
A. A spokesman for BG said: "When the customer moved into her flat, we were already in the process of a crossed meters investigation. Our records showed that the property was served by a metric meter, but this appeared to be incorrect. The details had been mixed up with another property on our records before the customer moved in. It transpired that it was actually served by an imperial four-dial meter. The crossed meter enquiry has come back confirming this to be the case, so we are now updating the records and will be sending out an accurate bill. We have assured the customer that the incorrect bills, which we issued for gas used since she moved in, have been cancelled. The issue arose due to incorrect meter details on our records, which have now been amended. We've apologised to the customer and have assured her that the incorrect bills have been cancelled."
Behind this technical explanation lies the truth that BG messed up, knew that it messed up, yet continued to harass you for a debt it knew was wrong. You tell us that the incident has left you very upset. Unfortunately, your experience is not unique among BG customers. BG will now issue a corrected bill, with £50 credit, recognising its failure to deal with the matter efficiently.
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