Questions of cash: Washing machine woes really have me in a spin
Saturday 28 March 2009
Q. Three weeks ago I contacted Curry's to get my washing machine repaired. It was covered under Curry's Coverplan extended warranty. When I first phoned, the multi-choice phone system failed to put me through and after several minutes the line went dead. Next time I phoned I was put through to the complaints section, which gave me a different number. Eventually I spoke to someone who was rude beyond belief, but told me I would be contacted by an engineer within 24 hours. This did not happen, so I phoned again and was given another phone number. When I phoned this number, I was told the engineer would come on Thursday. He arrived on Wednesday and told me I required a new motor, which would be difficult to obtain as a supply company had gone into liquidation and the parts may have to come from Italy. Since then I have phoned several times to be told firstly the parts had been ordered and despatched, then that there had been a delay. The latest time I phoned I was promised the engineer would phone me back, but he has not done so. SF, Belfast.
A. Curry's says it is "extremely sorry" that you are dissatisfied with the service, but that as your machine is six years old "this could have contributed to the delay in getting parts". It is sending you a £30 gift card as a gesture of goodwill. Your machine has now been repaired.
Q. I put £40,000 in a fixed-rate one-year bond with the Anglo Irish Bank last December. I am concerned about the safety of my money as I have read that the £50,000 cover will not apply if the Irish government defaults on debts. Is this true that I am not covered by the UK scheme? I have enquired about taking my money out immediately. To do this I must write to the bank explaining the reasons and they might let me withdraw my money. Can they do this? AG, Newbridge.
A. Anglo Irish Bank was nationalised by the Irish government in January. As a result, as previously explained in Questions of Cash (see 24 and 31 January), the £50,000 guarantee from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme has been replaced by an unlimited obligation from the Irish government. While there are concerns about Ireland's public finances, it is unlikely in the short term that its government would be unable to meet its financial obligations. Anglo Irish Bank says the effect of the nationalisation means savers benefit from a more generous system of guarantee than was previously in place and that there has not therefore been any fundamental change in the terms of your contract with the bank. Anglo Irish is, as you suggest, reviewing applications to cash bonds without penalty on a case-by-case basis. Letters from other readers suggest that it is taking a generous interpretation and may well be willing to refund your money as requested. It is currently considering your request.
Q. I am appalled at the behaviour of Thames Water and the way it is handling the closure of my account for my former home. My house in Reading has been unoccupied for the last five months as I had to move away when my job moved to another part of the country. The sale of the house is about to complete and I got in touch with Thames Water to tell it I would stop being responsible for the property and asked it to read the water meter. This is what it says you should do on the back of the bill if moving house. I was told that it would not read my meter, but instead apply an estimated bill. It then wanted me to pay it yet more money to settle its 'estimate' of usage based on full occupancy of the house over the last five months. It now says there was a 'printer's error' on the back of the bill, giving the wrong information about what to do when moving home. It claims it is legally permitted to require customers to pay their estimates and that I have no right of appeal. I am unable to travel to Reading to take the meter reading myself as I have just had major surgery on my knee and am currently unable to walk or drive. Anyway, the water meter is located outside the property in the street under a locked manhole to which only Thames Water has a key and my estate agent tells me there is no way he can get access to read the meter. I believe I have overpaid by about £150. RC, Cambridge.
A.Thames Water has now carried out an actual meter reading. It has corrected the bill and will send you a refund – but warns this will be "small". Thames Water apologises, accepting that "on this occasion our service has fallen well short of the high standards that we are accustomed to".
Q. I am a serving soldier stationed in Germany. Last autumn, while I was on a course in Yorkshire, I took out a contract for a mobile phone with T-Mobile. This was on the understanding I could use the phone in Germany. On my return I was unable to use the phone and it seemed to be blocked. I couldn't get through to T-Mobile to sort it out as the phone didn't work. I was then deployed on exercise for three weeks, thinking the phone would be OK on my return. It wasn't, so I took out a different contract with a German provider. I wrote to T-Mobile to cancel the contract. In its reply it acknowledged the phone had never had been set-up for use abroad. T-Mobile claims it has now been set up to work abroad, but still it does not. The letter also states that I have to pay them £228.39 to cancel my contract. But it is T-Mobile that has failed to meet its obligations. EN, Germany.
A. T-Mobile should have asked you for a deposit to enable you to use the phone in Germany, because of a problem with your credit rating. It failed to do this. It says that "because of all the confusion and inconvenience, by gesture of goodwill, T-Mobile have waived the early termination charge and released the customer from him contract as he wanted". The bill for £228.39 has been cancelled.
Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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