Questions of Cash: The son who got his lines crossed when he got his new broadband

 

Q. Earlier this year my son approached Utility Warehouse to reduce his utility outgoings. He signed up to take gas, electricity, broadband and telephone. Virgin had provided broadband via fibre optic cable, but Utility Warehouse offered him a connection via a telephone line as a cheaper alternative.

My son lives in a three-storey dwelling with his desktop computer and equipment on the second floor - none of which was discussed when he signed up. The engineer installed the telephone line and router on the ground floor, but there was no discussion of the suitability of the location. My son was unable to get broadband working with this set-up. Utility Warehouse advised him to have an extension socket installed by BT to get the system working, at a cost of £120. This was unaffordable, so my son has now reverted to Virgin and the fibre optic set-up.

One of the attractions of Utility Warehouse was their promise that there would be no minimum contract. But on receiving his August statement my son was horrified to see that he had been charged an early termination fee for the phone line. I've waded through the 24 pages of terms and conditions and found a clause relating to early termination, but I cannot understand how that squares with no minimum contract. I've complained to Utility Warehouse, but not had a response. I've paid the bill less the early termination fee, but now my son is being threatened by debt collectors. LH, West Midlands.

A. Utility Warehouse provides a significantly different version of events. "When [the reader's son] signed up online it was made clear that, since he was with Virgin, we were going to have to put a new line in," says its spokesman. "For customers who take four services or more - whom we call 'Gold Status' - we greatly discount the cost of that new line to £24, either in one instalment on the first bill, or over 24 months. This is [stated] in the online sign-up. It also mentions the fact that there is, in this case, a contract - which is reasonable, given we are heavily subsidising the cost of a new line, as well as providing a free router. [The reader's son] chose to spread the cost over 24 months.

"As a result, when he chose to cancel after five months, there was a fee applied to cover the costs we had incurred. This should not have come as a surprise – not only is it in our terms and conditions, but it is mentioned clearly before someone signs up. Our customer service advisors told him what the fee would be before he proceeded with the cancellation."

Utility Warehouse says that your son accepted these cancellation costs and made no objection when they were explained to him. It adds that your son agreed initially that the master socket would be located downstairs and that he moved music equipment next to this.

The location only became a problem when neighbours complained about the noise. Phone conversations between your son and the call operatives have been listened to and your son agreed to pay the cost of the phone line rewiring – and he was advised that a local electrician may be able to do the work for less than the cost charged by BT. In view of this explanation, you have agreed to pay the early termination fee on behalf of your son.

Where did my stamp duty disappear to?

Q. I bought an apartment, using a firm of solicitors for the conveyancing called Abode Solicitors, who also traded as Arc Property Solicitors and Action Conveyancing. They owe me £12,500, as they did nothing. The Land Registry tells me that a search was conducted, but the transaction was not registered. I paid the stamp duty, but this was not paid to HMRC. I am concerned that as a result I will be fined by HMRC. I was taken in by glowing testimonials. VB, London.

A. The Solicitors Regulation Authority intervened with Abode Solicitors earlier this month, citing the need to protect client money and failures by the firm to comply with solicitors' accounting rules. Stephensons Solicitors is dealing with client money that was held by the firm. In a statement, the SRA said: "The SRA has appointed an agent to deal with all matters currently held by Abode Solicitors. The agent will assess all on-going matters and deal with those of greatest need first. The SRA's archive team will take control of all documents held by the firm. Clients of Abode Solicitors do not need to contact either the agent or the SRA at this time."

This was a large business, operating under the three brand names of Abode, Arc and Action Conveyancing. It had several offices and many clients will be affected by its closure. The SRA says that compensation is available to clients of the firm who have suffered a financial loss, but that it is currently reviewing "hundreds" of client files. You have already contacted the SRA about your situation and you should continue to liaise with it. We contacted HMRC about the unpaid stamp duty.

Its spokesman says: "In law, the purchaser is liable to make an SDLT [stamp duty land tax] return and pay the tax, even if he or she employs a solicitor for this purpose. We contact people if we find a discrepancy between the tax that we think should have been paid on a house purchase and what has in fact been paid. We understand this would come as a shock because the purchaser would naturally expect the money to be sent to HMRC by the solicitor.

"In these circumstances, clearly the solicitor involved should make good any shortfall. If that doesn't happen, taxpayers should contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority to seek compensation for the money that should have been paid. We will work closely with any purchaser in these circumstances. There won't be a fine, provided that the return has been sent in on time, but interest is charged automatically on tax paid late."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But we'll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at: questions ofcash@independent.co.uk

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    BC2

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    (Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

    Finance Officer

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education are seeking a Fi...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice