Questions of Cash: 'Unusual transaction' wine buy on John Lewis card caused a headache


Q. I made a purchase from the Wine Society, using a John Lewis Partnership MasterCard, as I had done many times previously. But payment was refused, apparently on the grounds that it was an 'unusual transaction'. I was not told a problem had arisen, which gave rise to some embarrassment. I have written to John Lewis twice, as I would like to know what constitutes an 'unusual transaction' so I might avoid doing this again. I also want to know whether my credit reference has been damaged. Unfortunately I have not had a reply. DC, London.

A. Justin van der Pant, general manager operations for the John Lewis & Waitrose Partnership Card, says: "John Lewis & Waitrose Partnership Card has rigorous standards in place to protect customers. We always closely monitor transactions to help prevent fraud and we may block payments and contact the customer to clarify whether the transactions were genuine. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach [the reader]. We can assure him his credit rating has not been affected. In recognition of the inconvenience caused by this particular incident, we will, as a gesture of goodwill, send [the reader] some John Lewis vouchers." You now have £50 of vouchers to spend in John Lewis or Waitrose stores.

Commission sounds high, but chasing lost shares may pay

Q. I have recently been contacted by a company called Stern Levenson, which claims it can trace a lost investment for me. It takes a 25 per cent commission, which seems high. How does it know about my lost investment, and is there a way of tracing it myself? BS, Preston.

A. Stern Levenson did not reply to our enquiry, so we made our own investigations. You bought shares in three companies in 1987. All three – Concorde Energy, Burnett & Hallamshire Holdings and Blue Arrow – used Lloyds Bank as their share registrar. As the Lloyds share registrar business was sold off as Equiniti, we contacted Equiniti for information on the three companies.

Concorde Energy became Kelt Energy on 19 May, 1988. It was acquired by Henkel Loctite Investments for cash on 6 July 1995. Burnett & Hallamshire Holdings was renamed NSM on 19 April, 1988 and HMRC accepted on 5 April, 1998 that ordinary shares in the company were of negligible value. Your only shares that could be of value are those that were issued by Blue Arrow, which became Manpower on 2 April, 1990 and was acquired by Manpower Inc on 14 May, 1991. We emailed you to ask how many shares you had in Blue Arrow but you did not reply.

However, Equiniti's own enquiries suggest that Stern Levenson does not usually contact holders of unclaimed shares, but is more likely to be pursuing unclaimed assets that were part of a legacy in a deceased person's estate, or other lost real estate. We suggested you make your enquiries as to whether any family members might have died and left you money, as this might provide an opportunity to claim the asset without paying the 25 per cent commission fee.

However, again you did not reply. Unless your personal enquiries provide the explanation, it would seem that contacting Stern Levenson to obtain the assets is worthwhile. Equiniti suggests you speak to Stern Levenson, request information on the value of the lost assets and seek to negotiate a lower commission.

Crossed lines with voda over a replacement phone

Q. We have been Vodafone customers for nearly three years. But Vodafone sent us the wrong new phone and a bill for £200, plus a £62 contract. My husband ordered a black iPhone 5S 32GB on 2 November. He needed a phone urgently as he was going in for surgery. Instead he received a white iPhone 5S on 5 November. We phoned for a replacement. After 32 minutes, the line went dead.

On a second call, he was promised someone would contact him. They didn't. I phoned again and was told the request for a replacement phone had not even been logged. I was promised the correct model would be with us in four days. But my husband then had another call from a person at Vodafone, who said she had no idea our enquiries were to request a replacement handset. My husband asked her to explain the procedure for returns, which she did, very briefly. When he asked her to repeat these, she said: "I have said it once, and I cannot repeat", and hung up! I believe this is in complete breach of the seven-day returns policy. It is terrible service. KF, London.

A. Vodafone apologises. A spokeswoman says: "We're sorry the reader has had this experience, especially at such a stressful time. We have spoken to her husband to apologise. The unwanted phone is now back with us and although we offered to send a replacement, he has decided against this and has reverted to his old phone and price plan. We have credited the account with £30 as a gesture of goodwill and we will review our processes to see what went wrong in this case."

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

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

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