Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
J.C. writes: Deposit protection schemes are backed by the Government and are supposed to protect tenants from rogue landlords.
However, more than three months after leaving a property, I am still waiting to get my deposit back from the Deposit Protection Service in Bristol, which is run by Computershare Investor Services.
Safeguard: Deposit protection schemes are backed by the Government and are supposed to protect tenants from rogue landlords
Tony Hetherington replies: When you pressed the Deposit Protection Service to return the £1,425 you were owed, staff at the Bristol company claimed you had entered the wrong information on your request for the return of your money.
You have told me that you believe that instead of sending the money to your account with First Direct, they mistakenly tried to send it to First Direct’s parent bank, HSBC. When you tried to trace the missing money, you found that the account DPS said it paid simply does not exist. And after lots of trying, DPS had been unable to find your money, leaving you seriously out of pocket.
At the heart of this lies DPS’s claim that you gave them the wrong bank sort code number.
On the other hand, you say you would hardly know the sort code number from memory, so would have had your bank card in front of you when you typed in the details of where DPS should send your money.
What DPS has admitted is that when you rang up and asked about the delay in paying you, DPS staff told you it was up to you to contact your own bank and ‘request they return the funds’ – though, of course, your bank had never received the funds and knew nothing about the missing payment. DPS sent you £25 as an apology for this.
This was frustrating enough, but there was a glimmer of hope in an email from DPS which told you: ‘The bank has replied and has completed a payment recovery form to retrieve the funds and send back to us. This can take up to 36 days.’
But this glimmer was extinguished five days later, when another email from DPS made no mention of it and told you that no further DPS errors had been found.
I asked officials at DPS to investigate, and they have insisted that you gave them a sort code which was not even one used by your own bank, so the payment went completely wrong.
They say that the bank which received the money accepted it but could not credit it to any account.
When you contacted DPS, it took almost three months to trace the money and recover it. You have now received £1,419, which is £6 short of what you expected, but you decided not to make a fuss about this.
You have told me: ‘I will maintain until my last breath that if I am putting bank details in, I have the card in front of me. I might understand if there were digits reversed – but a completely wrong sort code for a completely different bank? In hindsight, I should have taken a screen shot.’ Good advice!
Scottish Widows’ silence over late mum’s policy
Delay: Scottish Widows paid an extra £300 by way of an apology
I.M. writes: My mother passed away on March 16 and I started arranging her funeral. She held a life policy taken out in 1993 with an assured sum on death of £1,651.
On March 22, I filled in the Scottish Widows bereavement form online and emailed a copy of the death certificate.
I heard nothing, so I called them on April 8 and they got me to repeat all the information I submitted online.
Tony Hetherington replies: You have told me that when you still heard nothing, you called Scottish Widows again on May 4, and this time you were told to send the death certificate once more, but to a different email address, which you did. You also completed an online complaint form and received a letter dated May 10, saying someone would contact you, but nobody did.
I asked Scottish Widows to look into this, and a spokesperson told me: ‘We are sorry for the service Mr M experienced on this occasion.’ The policy payment has immediately been made to you, together with £16 interest and £300 as an apology.
I’ve put £40,000 into my Halifax account… but where is it now?
B.M. writes: I have a Halifax Investment Fund Managers account that I have been paying into for many years.
I estimate I have invested more than £40,000, but now I cannot get Halifax to give me any information about this.
Missing money: B.M. estimates he has invested more than £40,000, but now he cannot get Halifax to give him any information about this
Tony Hetherington replies: You had a meeting with an adviser at your Halifax branch some months ago. You asked about your investment, which you pay into every month, but the adviser replied that he had never heard of the scheme. Since then, you have written twice to the branch without receiving any reply.
I asked Halifax what had gone wrong, and a spokesperson admitted that branch staff should have been able to locate your investment account as you gave them enough information to do so. Halifax told me: ‘We are sorry for the service Mr M experienced as we believe we could have handled it better.’
Halifax has now provided valuations showing that your investments are spread across a range of funds and are worth just over £122,000.
And Halifax has offered you £35 ‘as a gesture of goodwill’ for failing to trace your investments or reply to your letters. I can’t say that this is generous, but I am sure you are relieved to find that your money is safe and has grown over the years.
My wife’s pension has been cancelled
T.T. writes: On April 7, we received our monthly bank statement and found my wife’s pension had not been paid for five weeks.
We telephoned the Department for Work & Pensions, and in 55 minutes we made three calls and were passed to three different departments.
Cancelled: T.T. received his monthly bank statement and found his wife’s pension had not been paid for five weeks
Tony Hetherington replies: When you called the first time, the DWP official told you – rather rudely, you say – that your wife had failed a security check. He told you to call a different department, but when you did this, you were told you really needed to call yet again and ask for a department dealing with changes of circumstances, even though your circumstances have not changed at all.
This time, you struck lucky. A helpful young man explained that the DWP had made an error and sent a letter to your wife at a wrong address. The letter had been returned to the DWP, so staff had cancelled your wife’s pension.
When I looked into this further, I found that someone at the DWP had reversed the last two letters of your postcode. I suspect the rest of the address was auto-completed by the DWP computer, and this was enough to send the letter to your house number but in a completely different road.
Officials say that because they were unable to contact your wife or to confirm her address with the local authority, ‘a temporary hold was placed on Mrs T’s account as a precautionary measure’. Your wife’s pension has now been reinstated and arrears paid.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
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