Questions Of Cash: Woolwich payment went the wrong way

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Q. We took out a part-repayment, part-interest-only mortgage with Woolwich in 2002. Soon after we paid £100,000, with orders for the money to be deducted from the interest-only part.

I was assured on several occasions that this had been done, but found that the payment had been allocated to the repayment element. When I complained, Woolwich failed to respond within its own time limit for complaint handling, and then invited us to make up the deficit of £13,272.01 - which we did.

The only compensation Woolwich gave was to waive the £50 fee for the change.

Woolwich's customer services has confirmed that someone accessed our records to check where the payment was allocated, but nothing was done to correct the error. We feel cheated.
LA, Gosport.

A. Woolwich, part of the Barclays group, says its records did not show that you specified the payment should be applied to the interest-only portion. However, it accepts that your version of events is correct and apologises.

It is refunding the payment of £13,272.01 and crediting your interest-only account with £14,703.31, putting you in the position you would have been had your instructions been properly followed. But you will have to pay higher monthly repayments.

Q. I have had a problem with British Gas for four years, and it seems it will never be resolved. I asked Energywatch [a watchdog set up by the Government] to investigate, but it was unable to obtain copies of my old bills and I haven't heard from it since May.

When we moved into a new home in October 2001, we began receiving bills for another person living five miles away.

We are having to pay off a bill for £768, which accumulated due to billing mistakes. We haven't had a bill or statement for a year, though British Gas keeps claiming it has sent them to us. We want to switch from British Gas, but we can't because British Gas says we owe it money.
RM, Hitchin.

A. British Gas was given the wrong meter referencing information when the meter was installed, leading to a sequence of billing errors.

The direct debit you agreed with BG has now cleared your bill, so you can switch. But don't rush - as a gesture of goodwill, British Gas is crediting you with £80.

Q. I have a current account with NatWest. By mistake I withdrew the money to pay a bill, forgetting that I had set up a direct debit to pay the same bill. NatWest honoured the direct debit even though it put me overdrawn without authorisation. It has now charged me £30 for going overdrawn.
JM, Cardiff.

A. NatWest confirms that the charge was correctly calculated and applied. But as your error was uncharacteristic, the bank has agreed to write off the fee on this occasion as a goodwill gesture.

Q. I've been charged £65 by Smile for being 36p over my overdraft limit for 10 days. That seems excessive.
DG, by e-mail.

A. Smile, part of the Co-operative Bank, says that the charge was correctly applied, pointing out that you had exceeded your free overdraft limit of £500. As a goodwill gesture, it is writing off the charge on this occasion. But it suggests that, as it has previously refunded correctly applied charges, you should try harder to avoid exceeding your authorised overdraft.

Q. In June, I received a renewal letter for my O2 annual mobile phone contract, which was due to expire in August. Instead, in July I cancelled my contract. But I have since received monthly bills in both August and September. O2's billing section tells me that it has no record of my contract cancellation, yet O2's enquiry line confirms that my contract has been cancelled.
PK, by e-mail.

A. O2 apologises for your problems, which it says were caused by you being given the wrong address for your contract cancellation. It has cleared your account.

Q. I bought a £20 Vodafone top-up at St Pancras rail station. But when I was on my train, I found the £20 had not been added to the credit on my mobile, nor has it been since. Vodafone has promised me only £10 credit.
NB, by e-mail.

A. Vodafone has now credited your phone with an additional £20 as a goodwill gesture.

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; cash@independent.co.uk

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