I am a voluntary advocate for a 30-year-old man with learning difficulties. He took out 23 concurrent mobile phone contracts with different companies without fully understanding the implications. This left him with debts of around pounds 10,000 which he could not service.
He no longer has the handsets and cannot explain what happened to them. He has a doctor's letter which confirms his lifelong learning disability and also that he would not have understood the implications of signing these contracts.
The saga has caused major family difficulties, with his mother being hospitalised, in part due to the stress, and relationships becoming strained.
We have had a sympathetic response from Talk Mobile, Three, EE, Orange, 02 and, after a long struggle,
This is a distressing case and, while Virgin is quite within its rights to insist that customers pay their dues, it could have looked at the unusual circumstances more sympathetically. Luckily, it turns out the firm does possess a conscience - it's lodged in the press office which, half an hour after I contact them, arranges for the whole debt to be waived and the young man's credit record to be cleansed.
Blame free . . . but I've lost
my no-claims discount
In May I submitted a claim to Sainsbury's insurance after my car had been driven into and damaged.
I understood that my no-claims discount would be reinstated when responsibility was accepted by the third party. The third party was charged by the police with failing to stop and her insurers duly accepted liability. Sainsbury's, however, still refuses - without explanation - to reinstate my NCD.
I subsequently changed my car and was told I had to take out a new policy with Sainsbury's, which now refuses to refund me the premiums for the unused months of my old policy.
Cynics might think it significant that your discount is restored shortly after I contact Sainsbury's, but it insists the timing is pure coincidence. "We wrote to the customer three times to update him and were contacting the third party insurer on a fortnightly basis to establish liability," says a spokeswoman.
It seems that the latter has finally agreed to settle the dispute.
During the seven months the claim was in progress, you suspended your old policy and took out a new one for a different car. Sainsbury's says the refusal of the third party to accept liability had an impact on premiums. It has closed the new policy, updated your previous one with the new vehicle and refunded the overpaid amount.
pounds 75 missing after paying it
into a 'closed' account
In August I paid a bill by transferring pounds 75 to the trader's account with Lloyd's bank.
I then discovered this account had just been closed, so I transferred the same amount to the new HSBC account and was assured that the original payment would be refunded automatically.
However, this did not happen. My local branch of Lloyds told me I should be refunded within the week and, if I wasn't, they would chase it. They then called to say that they couldn't give me any information as I wasn't the account holder. I've phoned and written but heard nothing.
It turns out that the account in question was a TSB one and that it is not, after all, closed. If it had been, you would have received an automatic message advising you that the transaction had been unsuccessful.
Lloyd's is mystified as to why, given this, its staff would have promised a refund and you are understandably aggrieved that they have misled you for so long.
The trader who told you the old account was defunct and asked you to make another payment into the new one, is either confused or cunning, and it's from him that you'll have to coax the refund since, as the payment was not made by card, you are not covered by the chargeback process.
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