Q. I opened a NatWest E-ISA account in April to transfer my ISA from Halifax, which was closed on 3 May. However, the funds did not reach my NatWest account until 14 May. Where did the money go during those 11 days?
NatWest said that ISA funds are transferred by cheque, not electronically and it is not unusual for their value not to show on any customer account while they are transferred. I can transfer funds between my accounts electronically and instantly, so why do banks continue to use 20th Century technology in the 21st Century? RL, Nottingham.
A. You have not lost any interest during the period of the fund's transfer. RBS, which owns NatWest, explained: "Following an Office of Fair Trading ruling in 2009, interest is always back-dated to the 16th day of the ISA transfer request, or from the day the original ISA was closed or stopped paying interest. This means customers will always earn interest throughout the transfer period. No customer will miss out due to the time taken for the transfer to take place. A cross-industry project is underway, due for launch in October 2012, which will simplify and automate the transfer process.
While not all ISA providers have signed up, NatWest and other major banks have agreed to carry out electronic transfers between banks, enabling more accurate transfers. These transfers will still not be instantaneous as checks are required to follow ISA rules and regulations." A spokeswoman for Halifax added: "We can confirm we sent the cheque for the closing funds to NatWest on the same day the account was closed, 3 May 2012. Halifax is committed to driving industry standards for ISA transfers. Since 2010, as part of the Halifax ISA Promise, we pay interest from day one of receiving a transfer application to switch to a Halifax ISA, which minimises the impact to customers transferring their ISA to us from other providers."
Q. My TalkTalk broadband connection has kept dropping off since I went over to fibre optic in June last year. I have been on the phone to TalkTalk several times this week, for about two hours a time. I am put on a merry-go-round of customer service, technical enquiries and the engineers, who do not speak to me. Each time, the engineers test my line, send me a text saying it is fine and afterwards I still have the same problem! RC, Gerrards Cross.
A. Following our intervention, the fault was identified and resolved. A representative of TalkTalk said: "We are sorry that [the reader's] fibre optic router was faulty and he was not offered a replacement when he first contacted us. We have replaced the router and spent a week testing the connection to make sure it was working properly. We're committed to providing good service alongside great value and learning from instances like this when we could have served the customer better."
Q. I wish to build an extension on my house. I was impressed with HET – The Home Extension Team – in Hitchin. They claim to take the hassle out of building and manage the operation from start to finish by doing the design, planning application, handling building regulations and providing a recommended list of builders, who they deal with directly. The HET team undertook an initial visit to do a feasibility study at a cost of £300. But their proposed scheme did not take into account several requests we made and the costs were substantial.
We asked them to scale down the project and remove unnecessary costs, including a new boiler and expensive bathroom suite. We were told this would be done and were promised new plans would be in the post, but no drawings arrived despite numerous requests. After five weeks we received revised drawings that appeared to have been done in a hurry and did not take into account our requests. We rejected these, but had no reply to our complaint.
After another six weeks we were told the person who had drawn up the scheme had left and that HET would come back to me. Another week later this had not happened, so I requested a refund of the £300 I paid them. This was rejected. I have paid £300 cash for nothing of value. I have had to appoint an architect to design and draw further plans and apply for building permission. CJ, Bedfordshire.
A. HET rejects your request for a refund, arguing that it has provided a valuable service. Its director, David Cascarino said: "Due to staff changes we accept that communication was not as good as it could have been in this instance. Having investigated further we note that the client sought and obtained a planning consent through another designer for a scheme of an identical footprint as the original feasibility scheme, although our elevations differed to achieve a reasonable headroom in the new first-floor bedrooms.
In our view, the amendments suggested by the client to save costs were not practical, and I am sorry if this was not clearly explained. We note that the client's new scheme for which planning consent has been granted will still require new stairs, a new boiler and sanitaryware. We disagree that the client has nothing of value as our original concept has formed the basis of their approved planning consent.
The feasibility study includes floor layout plans, a photo impression of the proposed works, planning assessment, work specification, budget cost and financial advice and we believe represents excellent value for money." HET is a member of the Federation of Master Builders, which has a procedure for considering complaints against members, which may be the most cost-effective way of taking your dispute further. Details of this procedure are at www.fmb.org.uk/about-fmb/our-members/dispute-resolution/.
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