Been ripped-off? Moneywise gets your money back, Loan firms, Vodafone, Costa Coffee
Loan firms left me overdrawn
I have applied for a couple of loans online with The RightLoan4U and My Loan Now, and the companies have withdrawn money from my account without my say-so.The two charges came to £127.87 and made me overdrawn - I don't have an agreed overdraft so had to pay money into my account to stop me incurring penalties. One of the firms has even tried to take money out twice. I feel stupid and worried. Is there anything I can do?
In this instance, the companies that took money from our reader's account were not payday loan firms but payday loan brokers.These are businesses that promise to put you in touch with loan firms, in return for a hefty fee.
With payday loans not exactly hard to come by, the existence of these brokers is somewhat baffling, as well as damaging - the last thing people who require a payday loan need is any kind of additional expense. Nevertheless, customers are increasingly being duped into paying fees levied by these brokers, either through not checking the terms and conditions or the T&Cs not being clear enough. But the Competition and Market Authority is demanding that brokers display their charges more prominently.
The Financial Ombudsman Service says it has seen a huge rise in recent complaints about brokers that drain money from people's accounts without providing them with the loan they were looking for. It has been contacted by more than 10,000 people complaining about broker websites in the first eight months of 2014 – more than double the amount received in 2013. In two-thirds of the cases it investigated, it found that the consumer had been treated unfairly.
The Financial Conduct Authority says credit brokering is a legitimate activity under the Consumer Credit Act, though the regulation requires firms to display all fees and charges prominently so as not to misinform the consumer.
I contacted WS's bank, NatWest, as well as one of the companies in question: Nouveau Finance Limited, which operates The RightLoan4U website. Nouveau eventually decided to issue WS with a refund of £59.99, as well as an apology for any stress she has experienced as a result. I was less successful in trying to speak to someone at My Loan Now.
Fortunately, when NatWest heard about what happened, it quickly refunded WS all the money that had been withdrawn from her account, despite it not being liable in any way. When I told NatWest that WS had received a partial refund from one of the companies, it still allowed her to keep all of the the bank's refund, leaving WS delighted with NatWest's response.
A spokesperson for the bank, which has also seen a large increase in customers incurring charges when using payday loan brokers, gave this warning: "We urge customers to think very carefully before using this type of service and to always read the terms and conditions, plus additional information on the broker's website.
"If one of our customers finds they have paid these charges, they should get in touch with us as soon as possible, so that we can stop payment of further charges and help them to recoup funds already paid."
Our reader said: "I want to say a massive thank you to both Moneywise and NatWest for all your help."
Vodafone changed the rules on my data dongles
A few years ago, I bought three Vodafone data dongles for my family to use when we were away from home. This was ideal because you topped them up by £15 for 1GB of data, which never expired. However, Vodafone has now changed the rules so that the top-ups expire if they are not used within 30 days.
I wrote to Vodafone expressing my unhappiness about this and it offered me the £59.02 that was outstanding on the dongles, as well as £25 on a new SIM card.
I was still unhappy with the changes, so I wrote to the ombudsman to see if it could help but, unfortunately, it couldn't. Since then, I have written to Vodafone twice and called them asking for the refund but I have heard nothing back.
A quick internet search reveals that our reader wasn't alone in his disappointment over the changes to the dongle T&Cs, with many expressing their unhappiness on online forums.
Vodafone's original no-expiry tariff was withdrawn from sale back in 2010 but those who had already bought dongles with no expiry were allowed to carry on using the service. However, this changed in August last year, with users told that tariffs would now come with a 30-day limit.
I was unable, of course, to get Vodafone to change its dongle business model as it is clearly making more money from the switch to a 30-day tariff but I did want it to at least honour its original offer to RW (even though he should perhaps have accepted the offer when it was first made). Happily, after I got in touch with Vodafone, it investigated our reader's case and agreed to issue his refund for £59.02, as well as a £25 credit on a SIM card, too.
However, given the lack of response from Vodafone, RW has had enough and moved to a new provider. He is convinced he would still be fighting for his money if Moneywise hadn't got involved. "I have been so frustrated by Vodafone and the whole affair," he says.
Seeing red at Costa Coffee
I recently bought two large coffees from the Costa Coffee branch in Stockton for my daughter and I.
Unfortunately, my daughter's drink had some blood stains on the underneath of the lid. After taking it back to the counter, I was given the head office number and, after speaking to the area manager, I received a £20 Costa gift card.
I called back and said I would never use the giftcard, so would it be possible to send a £20 cheque to my daughter. Someone said they would call me back but this was nearly three weeks ago and I have still heard nothing. Please can you help?
Given the rather unusual circumstances of the case, it was disappointing to hear that our reader had received poor customer service from such a major chain.
She told Moneywise: "I really feel that Costa did not care about the situation at all. I have been made to feel like I am a nuisance for bothering them with this matter."
It took Costa a week to get back to us, giving us a taste of the frustration felt by LM, but eventually a spokesperson told us it had carried out an investigation into what happened. No blood was found in the store, leaving it a mystery as to where the blood on the cup came from.
However, the firm confirmed that, as well as a letter of apology, it had now agreed to send LM a £20 cheque as a gesture of goodwill – and she was allowed to keep the £20 giftcard, too.
Short-term cash loans designed to be borrowed mid-way through the month to tide the borrower over until they next get paid, whereupon the loan is settled. Generally used by people with bad credit ratings and/or no access to short-term credit such as an overdraft or credit card. Like logbook loans, this type of borrowing is hugely expensive: the average APR on payday loans is well over 1,000% and in some instances can be considerably more.
An overdraft is an agreement with your bank that authorises you to withdraw more funds from your account than you have deposited in it. Many banks charge for this privilege either as a fixed fee or charge interest on the money overdrawn at a special high rate. Some banks charge a fee and interest. And other banks offer a free overdraft but impose very high charges for exceeding the agreed limit of your overdraft.
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.
A property chain is a line of buyers and sellers (the “links”) who are all simultaneously involved in linked property transactions. When one transaction falls through – for instance, someone can’t get a mortgage or simply withdraws their property from sale, the entire chain breaks and all the transactions are held up or even fail entirely.