We didn't really call the cops, says BG

by Paul Gosling
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The Independent Online

* * * In February, I found that my gas meter was going backwards. With some difficulty, I persuaded British Gas to fit a new meter. We paid BG's estimated "outstanding amount" of £652.54 in full on the day. I then received a letter from BG accusing us of tampering with the meter and saying we had been reported to the police. I was annoyed at this, wrote in March complaining at our treatment, and asked how BG had calculated the outstanding charge. Again, in September, I complained as the meter was leaking. I still don't know if the charge was correct as BG has not replied. DS, Stafford.

* * * To calculate its charge, BG made an assessment based on typical use for the appliances you own, confirmed by your average usage. After our intervention, BG wrote a letter of apology to you and sent a £50 goodwill payment. When we were advised of this, we told BG that we regarded this as insufficient given your inconvenience, the repeated meter failures and, in particular, the allegation against you of having tampered with the meter.

At this point, BG reconsidered and has apologised to you again - this time for having sent a standard letter to you for customers who are suspected of tampering with their meters. You should not have been sent this letter as you were not suspected and the police were not contacted. In recognition of this, BG is offering you a 50 per cent refund on the £652.54 bill for gas use during the period the first meter was faulty.

* * * You published (in October) my letter regarding my grievance with Experian, which held incorrect information on my credit reference file, yet repeatedly failed to correct. Experian sent me an apology in September as a result of your intervention, promising a £50 goodwill payment. Despite repeated reminders, Experian still hasn't sent me the money. PM, Wivenhoe.

* * * Experian argues that it explained to you there would be a delay in sending the payment because of its internal procedures for raising cheques - though you deny this was what it told you. We intervened in this case a third time on your behalf, requesting that Experian send you the payment by special delivery - which it did the following working day.

* * * I have asked Prudential for a quote for a single level annuity, with no guarantees and linked to the RPI. It replied asking me to get my financial adviser to contact them. I do not have a financial adviser. Is this compulsory? KG, by e-mail. * * * Prudential should have given you a quote directly, based on the information you supplied. It will now do so if you contact it again.

* * * I am convinced the Halifax has overcharged me on my mortgage redemption, but I get nowhere when I ring the call centre. BM, Hemel Hempstead.

* * * Halifax confirms that its calculations on the mortgage redemption were correct. However, it has now refunded you with £792.82 in recognition of an overpayment you made, and is sending you a further £75 as an apology for its failure to answer your questions prior to our involvement.

* * * My husband's annuity cash sum from Phoenix was paid in May and was subject to a 40 per cent tax payment. Although he is not a higher rate taxpayer - he earns £13,000 - Phoenix insisted that under HM Revenue & Customs rules it had to do this.

We have repeatedly contacted HMRC, but have been unable to get a repayment of overpaid tax from them. HMRC says that my husband's employer must pay him a refund of £1,500. But his employer's accountants say the sum has to come from HMRC. Will we have to wait until the end of the tax year, or spend a lot of money engaging an accountant? AS, by e-mail.

* * * Dealing with tax problems is not easy for Questions of Cash, because HMRC confidentiality rules prevent tax officials discussing cases with us. HMRC will only say that it was correct for your husband's cash sum to be paid on a PAYE week one/month one basis - meaning that the cash sum should be treated as income earned in that one week and subject to higher rate tax.

What you should then have done - and HMRC is unable to tell us if you did this - was to complete and return a P53 (the claim form for tax overpayments made as a result of the payment of a "trivial pension" or annuity commutation), supported by a P45 (the form normally completed by an employer at the end of employment, but in this case completed by Phoenix).

Submitting this should lead to you being paid the tax repayment prior to the end of the tax year. But if you have been unable to obtain a P45 from Phoenix, then HMRC will be unable to send a payment until the new tax year, when it will process Phoenix's P14 return, which will include the P45 information.

While HMRC will not comment on your husband's case, it does say: "There is no reason that we are aware of why things should be held up further." If you do not receive a payment in the next few days, we are willing to lobby HMRC and Phoenix further on your behalf.

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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