Questions of Cash: Return of O2 debt which I thought had been written off


Q: Two years ago, I wrote to you about O2. I was being chased for the non-payment of a contract but the phone handset had been confiscated by the police in connection with an enquiry.

By the time the phone was returned to me, the line had been disconnected. After your intervention, O2 no longer requested any payments and I assumed it had written off the debt. Someone from O2 was supposed to have phoned me to discuss this at the time, but he never phoned.  Now I am being chased by a debt-collection agency, Lowell Portfolio, claiming £60. That must be a mistake, because if I did still owe them anything it would be more like £600!  AJ, by email.

A: On this occasion, you wrote to us in August. We have been in persistent contact with O2 since then. Repeatedly we were told that the issue could not be discussed with us until concerns over the Data Protection Act were settled. Meanwhile, Lowell Portfolio continued to contact your family at your former address. It was only when we contacted Lowell Portfolio that we made progress. The debt collector, it turns out, bought the debt from O2. We believe that the account should have been written off previously and not transferred. Thanks to the involvement of Lowell Portfolio, the account is now cleared. A spokeswoman for O2 says: “We worked closely with all appropriate parties to ensure this issue was rectified in accordance with industry guidelines and are very pleased to have resolved this issue to the customer’s satisfaction.” We suggest you check with credit reference agencies to ensure that the dispute has not led to a negative entry.

Sick of being force-fed spam

Q: I am receiving lots of spam texts, offering me refunds of PPI premiums when I never took it out and to get large debts, which I don’t have, written off.

I am fed up with this. Is there anything I can do to stop it? I don’t want to reply as this might encourage whoever is sending the messages. And anyway I don’t see why I should spend the money sending them texts!  RS, Lancashire.

A: You are right not to respond.  The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, says: “If you don’t know who sent you a text message then do not respond, otherwise your details may be used to generate profits for these unscrupulous individuals.” His office has initiated an online survey, which asks consumers to report these spam texts and also cold calls relating to claims management services. That survey is at

eBay knocked me back on Bob

Q: I bought a Bob the Builder toy through eBay, which arrived broken.

As the seller was unco-operative, I raised a dispute through eBay’s resolution procedure. I returned the goods to the seller, retaining the Post Office receipt of posting, supplying the details of this to eBay.

I was told by eBay that I appeared to have a strong case for compensation. EBay referred to my exemplary “feedback” record. But then eBay found in the seller’s favour without any explanation. The amount in question is small, £2.99 plus £10 postage and cost of return.

I phoned eBay and spoke to an “operative” who agreed I should have been compensated. She assured me I would shortly be credited with the cost of the transaction. I heard nothing more, so telephoned again. This time the operative said her colleague had acted beyond her competence. I was promised I would be emailed with an explanation of why the dispute had not been resolved in my favour.

That was three months ago but I have heard no more. MZ, Hertfordshire.

A: It seems that the original problems related to questions regarding your proof of postage, but eBay accepts that it handled the matter wrongly. It says that staff will be “retrained”, and a further investigation will take place as to why your complaint was not properly considered and resolved in your favour. A spokesman says: “We are sorry for the inconvenience [the reader] has experienced and have issued a full refund as well as a £25 gift voucher as a token of apology.”

Orange’s bills are giving me the pip

Q: Orange used to promise customers that if they were not on the most appropriate/cheapest tariff they would be notified and advised to move to another tariff.

What happened to that promise? I stopped using my home phone after the charges for that rose and used my mobile phone, under the impression I would be told when I would be better off with a different tariff. Now my mobile phone bill has shot up from between £30 and £50 a month to more than £100 and Orange has not contacted me. AB, Northern Ireland.

A: The Orange Best Plan system operates for customers who have been with the provider for at least six months, except for those who use the iPhone. Orange says it hopes to extend the system to cover the iPhone “soon”. This is a free service, which notifies customers if they are not on the best possible tariff for their particular history of use.

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

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