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TMCNet:  Saturday Money: Consumer champions: Miles Brignall and Rebecca Smithers fight for your rights

[June 28, 2014]

Saturday Money: Consumer champions: Miles Brignall and Rebecca Smithers fight for your rights

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) pounds 5,000 gone astray after online cash transfer error Can you please help me recover over pounds 5,000 that has mistakenly been paid into someone else's bank account? In April, needing to pay a travel firm for a holiday, I logged onto our Barclays online account and made the payment by direct bank transfer to what I thought was its NatWest account. While I got the account number right, I must have inputted a slightly different sort code - one digit out - and despite the fact I put the travel firm's name on the transfer, the money has gone into another NatWest account.


When we became aware of the mistaken transfer, we immediately notified Barclays which, in turn, contacted NatWest. Since then, Barclays has repeated the request, but we appear no closer to getting our money back.

AP, London As more of us bank online and have got used to moving money ourselves, more of these incidents are occurring. The rules governing this area - and a suitable redress - remain in the dark ages and, in our opinion, the Financial Conduct Authority needs to urgently address this issue. Your letter arrived at an opportune moment as, in the last few weeks, the Payments Council has introduced a voluntary code to help bank customers caught in this way.

So far the code has been adopted by Lloyds, HSBC, Nationwide, Barclays, Santander, The Co-operative Bank and NatWest - with others to follow. It will mean that as soon as someone tells their bank they have made a mistake with a payment, the bank is required to act within two working days.

If the bank cannot reclaim the funds immediately, it will investigate further and the customer will be told within 20 working days what the outcome is. However, someone who raises a claim for a wrong payment is still not guaranteed to get their money back under the new rules.

People on the wrong side of this have had to go to court in the past to get their money back. Last year Money reported on the case of a woman who lost pounds 26,000 in this way.

For this reason, we have long warned those who bank online to first make a small test payment - and check it has arrived - before sending a large sum. And, if paying for a holiday, pay by credit card first - and then debit card if you don't want any extra fees.

In your case, Barclays says it contacted NatWest and requested the funds to be returned. It said: "The bank concerned will require the account holder's permission for the funds to be debited and returned to source. On this occasion, consent to do so was only provided to NatWest this week." In other words, you get your money back - but double check in future before sending sums this large by bank transfer.

Vodafone's bad reception when I moved supplier For many years I was a loyal Vodafone customer, but since May 2013 the signal in my area of Brighton has deteriorated to the point where I could never use 3G, and 2G calls were frequently dropped. People trying to call me couldn't get through. This seemed to be happening to me and people I know all over the Brighton and Hove area.

A long-running thread on Vodafone's eForum, plus a couple of Facebook groups devoted to this issue, suggest I am not alone.

Since the problem began, I have had my line rental credited to my account every month and have received around pounds 250 in these "goodwill gestures". But I need a working phone service, so I left Vodafone in April this year to move to EE. I now have a perfect signal.

Vodafone is demanding a pounds 390 early-termination fee, but I don't feel this is fair and want the ombudsman to rule on my case. To do so, I need a deadlock letter from Vodafone, but despite repeated requests, it won't send me one. The firm even wrote to say it was unable to send a letter as it could not identify my account using my name and address, which is ridiculous as it managed to send the pounds 390 early-termination fee demand to this address.

IP, Brighton This is an increasingly common complaint among mobile users. The reduction in masts following mergers, and the roll-out of the faster 4G service, appear to be causing a deterioration in existing services in parts of the country.

Vodafone admits there have been intermittent problems with the mast covering your area, but says the site is close to the beach and it suffers from congestion at busy times as a result. "We make it clear in our terms and conditions that we cannot guarantee a fault-free service since there are factors, many of them beyond our control, which can affect the performance of a local mast. Despite this, as a gesture of goodwill, we have credited this account by pounds 200 over the last 12 months," says a spokeswoman.

Following our gentle prod, it has now sent you the deadlock letter and says it will comply with the ombudsman's decision.

However, we suspect you will be wasting your time, as the telecoms ombudsman rarely finds against the phone companies on contractual matters - but we remain happy to be proved wrong.

On a more positive note, Vodafone says it is carrying out improvements locally, including introducing 4G services over the coming months, which should result in "greatly improved stability in the wider Brighton area".

Getting nowhere over cancelled flight refund In January I bought a hotel and flight package from Expedia for a July trip to Moldova, and paid pounds 640.

In March Expedia emailed to say the trip was cancelled, later telling me on the phone that it could offer no alternative and would refund the cost.

Some weeks later I received a refund of pounds 382 - which was the hotel cost.

After more emails and calls, Expedia told me to contact the airline, Carpatair, for a refund of the air fare. Carpatair asked for a ticket number, which I didn't have.

After another round of calls, Expedia again assured me I would receive a refund, but it would have to be through Carpatair.

Carpatair said it had not received the money from Expedia, had never issued a ticket, and therefore can not refund me. I'm going round in circles. Please help.

GD, Bristol Two years ago, we were getting lots of letters from readers struggling, like you, to get refunds out of Expedia. At the time, the fast-growing travel booker said it was radically changing its processes to improve in this area.

It's fair to say that complaints to us have fallen sharply, although your letter suggests that there is still some work to do. Expedia quickly resolved the problem after we sent your letter on, and the remaining refund has now been made.

And for those of you wondering, Carpatair is a Romanian regional airline that was forced to file for insolvency in January. This is probably why your trip was cancelled and may explain the refund confusion.

Help solve the mystery of 0700 premium rate calls Can I use you to ask your readers whether any other Vodafone customers have seen mysterious 0700 calls appearing on their bills.

My husband had exactly that - 13 calls made to a premium rate number, all on Saturday or Sunday between 10pm and 1am. Our kids are in bed then and we know we didn't make them.

Vodafone has promised to investigate and refunded the money, and we have since made sure there is a premium rate bar put on the line.

Would love to hear if other readers are having these issues.

FP, by email Has anyone else experienced this? If so, please email the usual address and we will report back.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@theguardian.com or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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