Questions Of Cash: 'Why should I be facing this large charge?'
Saturday 29 September 2007
Q. In June I used Nationwide's online service to apply for a mortgage quotation. Part of the credit-checking system asked for my credit card details, which I supplied. The next day I had online and text messages saying that a property survey was being arranged. I immediately phoned Nationwide and was assured that the survey would be put on hold until I decided whether to proceed with the mortgage.
But the following day I again had online and text messages to say that the survey was being arranged. Unhappy with this, I phoned Nationwide and asked for the mortgage quotation request to be cancelled. I was promised no survey would take place – even speaking to Nationwide's surveyors to tell them not to go ahead.
A week later, I received my credit card statement, which included a charge from Nationwide for £1,074 for the survey and mortgage reservation fee, plus interest on this amount of £8.32. Nationwide has apologised and promised to refund the £1,074. But it refuses to refund the interest charged, or for all my phone calls which have probably cost me £20. MD, by email.
A. There seems to have been a misunderstanding. Where you thought you were requesting a mortgage quotation, Nationwide still says that its records show that you were actually applying for a mortgage. However, Nationwide accepts that you were very clear that you did not want a survey and that you were comparing mortgage offers. Nationwide adds that "we have fallen short of the service standards that we set ourselves". It has refunded the £1,074 and has now sent you a further £100 as compensation.
Q. I pay my British Gas bill by direct debit and have been paying £83.50 per month. I recently found I was unexpectedly overdrawn – which I have never been before. BG increased its DD in April to £149, taking the same again in May. It says it believes it underestimated our bill by £800 so is taking it in increased DDs. But at no time did it tell us. If it had, I would have transferred the money from another account and avoided overdraft charges. CR, by email.
A. BG accepts it made a mistake, apologises and is crediting your account with your overdraft charges. It has agreed to reduce the direct debit to £120 per month for the rest of this year and subsequently to £80. Your gas consumption increased substantially last year and BG is sending an energy adviser to you to assist you in bringing your energy use back down.
Q. I missed one payment date on my MBNA credit card and was charged a late payment fee. But I have subsequently been charged late payment fees on later statements, despite having paid the overlooked account in full. MBNA's helpline said that the policy is "to continue to make charges for a late payment for a period of two to three months after the event". WP, Wellington.
A. There has been a misunderstanding. MBNA charged fees for two successive late payments of your monthly account. It does not continue to charge late payment fees for one month in later months.
Q. I took out a Morgan Stanley MasterCard last December. It had a special offer of 3 per cent cashback for three months instead of the usual 1 per cent. In March my statement showed I had more than £20 due on the offer, which had not been credited to my account. I asked then for it to be credited, but it has still not been. I received just a 1 per cent cashback in April. GP, by email.
A. The Morgan Stanley MasterCard is now branded as "Goldfish". Goldfish was originally established by Centrica (owner of British Gas) and has since been bought by Discover Financial Services and is no longer owned by Morgan Stanley.
It seems that a systems problem means that customers who spent more than £2,000 on their card and who expected to get the 3 per cent cashback were only credited with the 1 per cent. Goldfish was unaware of this until customers complained. It apologises to you for the error and failing to resolve it quicker. You have now been credited with the £16.22 that you had missed out on.
Q. I took out a student loan several years ago from the Student Loans Company (SLC), which I have been repaying for eight years. Two years ago I requested a statement from the SLC and a letter stating when the balance would be paid off, which I required for my mortgage application. The letter confirmed I had nothing to pay off. But in July last year, the SLC wrote to me stating that I owed £1,400. Apparently, payments from another person had been credited to my account by mistake. My repeated requests for a revised statement detailing how the balance was calculated have been ignored. The SLC accepts it made a mistake, yet demands payment in full and in stages that I cannot afford now that I pay a mortgage. SM, by email.
A. The SLC says it has already offered to stage your repayments to make them affordable, but it is not willing to write off the amount you owe. "It is not unreasonable to expect that a customer whose loan account is receiving payments by someone else in error for a period of over three years should have taken steps to stop these payments and draw our attention to the other customer's error," argues SLC.
Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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