Questions of Cash: We bought the special ceramic poppies. Then the saga began


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The Independent Online

Q. In August last year we ordered three of the ceramic poppies from the special installation at the Tower of London marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. We paid for them by card.

The money was taken out of our account – including nearly £20 for postage – and we looked forward to receiving them in the new year.

We received an email in December informing us that the delivery was ahead of schedule and it was anticipated that delivery would be undertaken by the end of February. As we did not receive the poppies by that time, we emailed again and were told of the provider's delight that 90 per cent of the poppies had been delivered. It added that our delivery would be a little delayed, but we would receive our poppies by the end of March at the latest.

Yet we have still not received a single poppy and we are no longer receiving replies to our emails. The dedicated phone number was closed recently, so we contacted Historic Royal Palaces, initially by email – again with no success. We then phoned and were told that somebody would return our call by the end of the day, which did not happen. MH, North Wales

A. By a strange coincidence, the poppies for which you waited months were posted on the day we contacted Historic Royal Palaces. Its spokeswoman says: "Almost all of the ceramic poppies were successfully delivered to thousands of customers around the world by the end of March. However, given the size and scale of the project, a small number of deliveries have taken a little longer than we had originally anticipated. We are very sorry for the delay that [the reader] experienced, but we are glad this has now been resolved. The few remaining poppies have been packaged and are currently being processed by Yodel."

Q. I have just moved abroad to join my husband, and I have had real difficulty closing our Virgin Media account. I feel bullied and threatened by the company, having received a "default notice" warning of possible court proceedings.

Although the service was provided to our house, it was in my husband's name as we were unable to open the account in joint names. In trying to close the account I was asked for a password, which I did not have; my husband could not remember. To avoid ongoing charges, I cancelled the direct debit and notified Virgin Media that I was doing this. This was a small bill of £34.65 and we have been customers for several years, paying on time. A customer-oriented organisation should make it easy for a consumer to carry out a transaction, including cancelling a service. FC, Germany

A. We can understand why you're upset, but Virgin Media insists it acted correctly. A spokesman says: "Our statement comes straight from our code of practice as it appears that there hasn't been anything abnormal in the way we handled the account. As the [reader and her husband] failed to pay their monthly bill, through cancelling their direct debit without giving notice on the account, we sent them notice of the late payment, including the handling charge for non-direct debit payments.

"These first notices are typically followed by a standard letter which advises customers of some of the potential ramifications of late payment, along with details of where to find advice and support if needed. It may have been that the [reader] received these letters having paid their bills, in which case the letter would've been null and void."

We put it to Virgin Media that its responses could have taken your good payment history into consideration, but it reiterated that it had acted correctly.

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

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