Our Virgin landline has not worked for more than two months and after receiving one letter from Virgin, we have had nothing since and it has not addressed the issue of compensation.
My husband is 86 and in very poor health. I am 76. When he needed to go to hospital with a suspected heart attack, we had to use a mobile phone because our landline wasn’t working.
The mobile was also not working properly – this caused considerable delay. It has also proved impossible for people to contact us, which meant we missed a hospital appointment.
One reader says her landline hasn’t worked for two months but Virgin won’t fix it
When I try to contact Virgin, we go round in circles. My friends and family have also tried on our behalf.
Mrs C.R., Essex
Virgin Media’s customer service director wrote to you acknowledging your letter, saying they aimed to be in touch within two weeks. Bizarrely, she said they would try to contact you by phone, even though you had explained your landline was not working!
More than five weeks later you finally ran out of patience and wrote to me.
Virgin Media has apologised for the poor service you received. An engineer has fixed your phone and placed your account on its priority fault repair service for vulnerable customers in case you need help again.
It has offered a £335.50 goodwill gesture — £85.50 for loss of service plus £250 compensation. The case has been deadlocked and you can refer it to the ombudsman Cisas for an independent ruling if you wish.
Virgin Media says you did not make contact again following the letter of complaint last September, but this is contrary to what you say. Your friends and relatives also tried to make contact.
It says something about Virgin Media that it should expect a customer to have to make contact again after a complaint is made, and the customer service director has promised a resolution. Once it was aware of a problem, Virgin should have ensured the issue was addressed.
YOU HAVE YOUR SAY
A headline from Money Mail, January 24
Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. Here are some of the best from our report about how house builders have put clauses in contracts meaning homeowners must ask for permission to re-decorate or park a caravan on their drive…
I’d never buy one of these leasehold homes as the developers have you over a barrel. Why are solicitors acting for buyers not saying anything before they hand over their money?
E. L., Manchester.
Developers put covenants in place to maintain the look and feel of a development, but forcing people to ask permission and to charge them for changing their carpets or knocking down internal walls is just ridiculous.
B. W., Manchester.
I can’t think of any way to describe this but as a rip-off. Where there is money to be made exploiting people, you’ll always find companies willing to do so.
D. B., Cambridge.
People who bash ‘restrictive covenants’ should ask whether they’d welcome them if they had noisy neighbours. They are a godsend if you live next to neighbours who don’t care about the people around them.
I. S., Cambridge.
There are good reasons why leasehold properties have these covenants and that is so people don’t make garish alterations to their properties. Having said that, some of the restrictions here border on the extreme.
L. E., Canada.
This type of practice is all around us. Wherever you go, firms try to squeeze the very last penny out of you. It’s a disgrace.
E. T., Bristol.
Covenants are crazy and old hat. The property I owned didn’t allow me to run steam engines or have a pub on the premises.
A. N., Edinburgh.
This goes to show why you need a good solicitor when you buy a home. I’d want the person representing me to walk me through all of these types of clauses.
J. P., London.
I am A 67-year-old retired married man. My income comprises the state pension and a modest private pension, which is taxed at source. I submitted my tax return well in advance of the October deadline and posted it in the envelope provided.
HMRC wrote to say it hadn’t received my return and, as the deadline had passed, I must submit an online return by January 31 or face a £100 fine.
I went online and started to complete the return but reached the section which asks for verification of identity. It was compulsory to give details from my photo driving licence or passport. I possess neither.
The system would not let me continue and froze. It is virtually impossible to get through by telephone, so I am concerned about receiving a £100 penalty.
Check your cheques! One reader accidentally made a cheque out to to the wrong company
HMRC reacted swiftly when I got in touch, and promised to call you. But you got through and discovered you should not have received the letter demanding an online return. As a pensioner with simple tax affairs, you won’t need to fill in any more tax returns. This might apply to others who have straightforward tax affairs after retiring.
The simplest way to find out is to call HMRC and ask if you can be taken out of self-assessment.
There is another aspect to your letter which piqued my interest: how can it be that HMRC is asking for identity checks in order to set up an online account, which some people can’t fulfil?
In fact, this is part of the government’s Verify universal identity checking system, which gives access to all sorts of online facilities, including driving licence applications; universal credit and HMRC.
Seven companies carry out validation checks for HMRC: Barclays; CitizenSafe, Digidentity; Experian; Post Office; Royal Mail; and Secure Identity. Each has different ways of doing it, so if one asks for documents you don’t have, you can try another.
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
I received a British Gas bill for £46,107 in July. I’d previously been told I was in credit so I don’t understand how I have accrued a bill of this size so quickly? I’ve since been sent several other bills and now have no idea what I owe.
J. P., Romford, Essex.
British Gas says this wasn’t a bill but rather an annual gas summary outlining the previous year’s usage. It admits it contained a printing error but says it apologised for this and sent you an accurate summary six months ago. It adds that it has repeatedly requested meter readings, but you have not responded. I urge you to call these in as soon as possible.
My friend has terminal cancer and has asked me to write to you on her behalf. She was given a Kindle 18 months ago and has discovered she’s been paying £7.99 a month to Amazon for 17 months, but does not know what for. Can you help her claim the money back?
G. B., Royal Wootton Bassett, Wilts.
Your friend must have accidentally signed up for a free trial of ‘Kindle Unlimited’, which would have allowed her to download online books to the gadget.
As she didn’t cancel after 30 days, she was charged £7.99 from that point on, but as Amazon can see she hasn’t used this service it has refunded her the full £135.83.
I took out a car loan in 1999. I suspect I was mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI), but I don’t have any paperwork to prove it.
G. V., Rotherham.
You should ask your bank but it is likely to have scrapped your records by now. It is also possible you have missed the time limit for submitting a claim. These rules state that you have six years from the event to claim or three years from when you knew, or could reasonably have known, you had cause to complain.
Thames Water sent me a letter stating that they are going to install a smart meter in my house. It adds that under section 162 of the 1991 Water Industry Act, I cannot refuse. Is this true?
G. P., Essex.
Water companies can force households to have a meter if they live in a ‘water-stressed’ area, such as the South-East.
Last August I responded to an offer in a magazine for bras. I received them and I promptly sent a cheque for £40.
A couple of weeks later the offer was repeated so once again I sent a cheque for £40.
However, the company Julipa (a subsidiary of J.D. Williams & Ambrose Wilson) says I still owe £40. On September 5 it asked me to forward a copy of my cashed cheque which I supplied. But when I looked at it, I observed it was made out to the wrong company.
However, my account number for Julipa was on the back of it, so it has been cashed. I have written giving Julipa my mobile number so someone there can contact me but no one has, yet I keep receiving texts and emails demanding this money.
I also tried to contact someone in the appropriate department but it is all automated and I can’t get through. I am 82 and getting very distressed over this.
Mrs S.B., East Sussex
Your letter is a gentle reminder to all of us to make sure that when we write cheques we get all the details right. I’ve contacted N. Brown, the holding company for the brands you mention. They have apologised for their errors and tell me all charges have been taken off your account. In addition they have sent you a £10 cheque as a gesture of goodwill.
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