Friday, 30 March 2007

A little extra (part 2)

Well bugger me sideways. No, silly. Not literally.

After all that fannying around with the Halifax (see below), I did write back to them, arguing that indeed it was their mistake that meant I was needlessly paying £20 for a mortgage interest statement that arrived too late to be of use. I expected another 'we are not to blame - tough shit!' letter from them.

Imagine my surprise (go on - imagine it. I'll wait here for you. I'll have a fag. Take your time.) when this morning they wrote to me, noting my comments, and saying that 'because of your long-standing relationship with us' they were refunding me the £20.

Bloody hell - really didn't expect that. They add: 'I sincerely hope that we will have the opportunity in the future to restore your faith in us' (as opposed, I imagine, to having the opportunity in the past).

So, as my mate Will Shakespeare said, all's well that ends well.

Lesson learned? As with the Virgin Media business, it pays to complain. So go on - get complaining.


Thursday, 15 March 2007

The power of complaining

Bloody hell!

I'm writing this, just half an hour after posting the whinge-fest that's the post below. I've written a follow-up letter to the Halifax (I'll let you know how that goes) and called Virgin Media about the £5 non-direct-debit charge.

And bugger me, if the nice chap at Virgin Media (call their customer care number, 0800 052 9403, not the customer services number, 150) didn't look at my bill, say: 'Yes, I don't think you should be paying all that, actually,' and offer to chop my bill by about £9. He said he couldn't actually remove the payment handling charge, but didn't think I should pay as much as I do for my 10meg broadband or the £1 itemised bill and said that from now on there'd be a 'loyalty discount' of £9 every month.

I think the phrase is: 'Result!'

I must admit, I'm a bit surprised at how easy it was - especially considering I've come away with a lower bill than before. Even the bloke (David, BTW - nice man) said that he thought that eventually the payment handling charge would be scrapped.

A little bit of my dwindling faith in humanity has been restored.


A little extra

Those of you tuning in to read exciting snippets about the progress of my Doctor Who novel may be a tad disappointed, since all I'm going to witter on about here is the current propensity for big companies to try to squeeze out every single penny from their customers as possible.

This, of course, is nothing new: there's recently been much hoo-ha about banks' overcharging of customers for going overdrawn. Fortunately, I've managed my meagre finances well enough to avoid that for some years now, but the ever-creeping desire of banks and other companies to wring a bit of 'added value' out of their customers goes beyond charges for badness.

Because I'm self-employed and rent out the house I own and used to live in, every year I need to let my accountant know how much mortgage interest I've paid on it. Until two years ago, the Halifax (who own the house - I'm under no illusions there) used to send out an 'annual statement of mortgage interest' free of charge to every one of their mortgage customers. And then, in a double whammy of greed, they decided a) to only send them out to people who actively requested them (saving them an absolute fortune, since most people didn't really need them and wouldn't have requested them) and b) charging £20 for the privilege.

So, on January 12th, I rang the Halifax and asked them to send them one, agreeing that it would cost me £20, and pointing out that I needed it for my accountant in time for her to do my accounts and submit them to the Inland Revenue by the end of the month.

Come the 24th of January and nothing had arrived, so whilst in Leeds, I called in at a branch, spoke to a customer services person (I think they used to call them 'salespeople') who put me through on the phone to someone in the mortgage department who said that the certificate hadn't been sent out because the woman I'd spoken to had forgotten to ask if it was OK for them to debit the £20 from my current account. Rolling my eyes, I said yes (even the woman in the branch thought it was ridiculous!) and the woman on the end of the phone said it would be with me in two days.

Two days later (yes, you're probably ahead of me here), nothing had arrived, so I rang them again and was told it had been sent out on the 26th. Reluctantly, because I'd been told I needed a printed statement, I accepted a verbal statement of my mortgage interest (which, amazingly enough, was free!) and gave that to my accountant.

The actual statement arrived on the 30th of January. And despite the letter itself being dated the 26th, the postmark on the envelope was the 29th: either they'd lied to me and not posted it until the 29th, or they put their post into a very poorly-visited postbox.

I rang them and asked for the £20 fee to be waived since, because of their catalogue of errors, the printed statement arrived too late to be of any use. I also wrote to them, detailing all of the above.

Imagine my surprise when, a week or so later, I got a different mortgage statement from them, detailing all the payments and interest and what-not I'd paid over the last year - including three debits of £20. I rang them and was told that two of them were mistakes and that they'd credited my account with £60, but that they were still debating whether to refund the final £20.

And imagine my lack of surprise when, a week or so ago, I got a letter saying they wouldn't be refunding the money. In their own beautiful English: ' this error was not caused on the behalf of the Halifax.' (sic)

Considering the whole fiasco started because the woman forgot to ask me about payment, it seems a bit rich, their claiming that it wasn't due to them.

At the moment, feeling weary and drained as I do, I'm not sure I can be arsed taking it further. I know I should, but this kind of thing just wears you down.

And as if that isn't enough, now that ntl has been bought out by Virgin Media - and because I pay my monthly phone/broadband bills by cheque rather than direct debit - Virgin Media are slapping a bloody great £5 per-month charge on our bills. The £4 that ntl charged was bad enough. If I can be arsed, I might just ring them and complain - I've read on the interwebnet that many people have been successful in having this charge removed. It might cheer me up a bit - or, if unsuccessful, depress me even further.