My car wouldn’t start late one evening in Bristol, so I called the AA, as I’m a member through Ford Assistance.
However, the AA said I was no longer a member. I needed to get home, so reluctantly paid £89.29.
The following day, my garage confirmed I was a member. I have made numerous phone calls and sent many emails, but have now been told it may take up to eight weeks to investigate my complaint — and until then, I am not able to speak to a manager.
K. P., Caerphilly.
Road rage: AA left forced one member to cough up £89 for a call out because they could not find her record
The AA says the agent who handled the call made a mistake and it apologises for this.
Further apologies are made for its failure to rectify the error by refunding the additional cover you bought and for the difficulties you had in getting your point across.
Apparently, you upgraded your daughter’s membership — as the best option in the circumstances — but did not have authority over her account.
The eight-week timeframe is actually a regulatory requirement. If the AA doesn’t take action by then, you can go directly to the Financial Ombudsman.
But most of the time, businesses take action much more quickly.
The AA has refunded your payment and sent a cheque for £50 by way of further apology. A spokesman says: ‘As always, this kind of event leads to internal training to help ensure that it doesn’t happen again.’
YOU HAVE YOUR SAY
Every week, Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories.
Here are some of the best from our story about how quirks in our council tax system have left homeowners facing a bills lottery…
I recently sold my flat in Westminster and bought a much smaller one in Barnet, but now I pay a third more in council tax for a worse service. The whole system needs reforming.
B. B., Barnet, London.
Council tax should be means-tested and based on the person’s ability to pay, rather than a blanket tax on property. That way, it would be much fairer.
C. S., Northampton.
In most countries, you pay a percentage of the property value — 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent.
This keeps it fair and ensures that a billionaire with a £100 million mansion pays significantly more than someone in a family home.
L. E., London.
We pay more than £2,400 a year in Newcastle. It’s ridiculous that we have to pay so much to live in a poor area when those in wealthier places pay half as much.
L. G., Essex.
Any method of raising taxes will have anomalies. If you move in to a property and are shocked by the council tax bill, then you haven’t done your homework.
J. R., Keighley, Bradford.
The only fair way to do this is for us to pay for each person in the household, so those who use more services pay more.
J. S., Gloucester.
My house is valued at £240,000 and was worth £160,000 in 1991. Now I pay £2,300 in council tax.
I am also on a pension with an income of less than half the national wage. What a wonderfully fair system we have.
B. G., Wretton, Norfolk.
We should bring back poll tax, a flat-rate tax on every adult set by the local authority. I think that was a much fairer system.
U. T., Leeds.
I recently came across an old Abbey National passbook for an account held jointly by my late parents, who died in 1994 and 1997. The last entry indicated a balance of £3,266 in September 1996.
Santander advised me there was no record of the account, which it claimed was closed in 1992. I pointed out the passbook clearly indicated transactions between 1992 and September 1996.
I have now been advised that an advanced research team found evidence of the account up until 1998, but it contained only £228.
Neither of my parents’ deaths seemed to be registered against the account, which they would have been had I subsequently withdrawn the funds.
As far as the bank is concerned, the account was closed. As the sole beneficiary of my father’s estate, I would have been the only person to whom this money would have been released.
M. L., West Sussex.
Abbey National in the Nineties could be a chaotic operation. It made blunders in its mortgage department, and it would not be surprising if there were also blunders in the savings section.
The fact that it hadn’t registered your parents’ deaths may mean it failed to process any letters sent.
Santander now admits you were informed incorrectly that the account was closed in the 1992/93 tax year. Following this, you were told the account was closed on or around February 7, 1998, with a balance of £228.38.
After an extensive search of old reports, Santander now says the account was last reported to HMRC on that date, but the final balance is unknown. It has apologised and offered £100 as a gesture of goodwill for the first two errors and spoken to the relevant teams to ensure such a thing does not happen again.
You are understandably sceptical that you have received the correct answer this time. However, my guess is that you probably closed the account as part of the probate process. This can be a very stressful period and it is possible, over time, to forget every single transaction we undertake.
If you are still unhappy, you can, of course, take the issue to the Financial Ombudsman Service by calling 0800 023 4567.
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
I paid £599 for a mattress from Simba, but the firm failed to deliver it four times.
Each time, I had to pay my builder to wait in for the delivery, as I was in hospital for cancer treatment. Simba agreed to cover the £180 cost as compensation.
I then didn’t like the mattress, so asked for a refund, but the firm would repay only £419 since I’d already received £180.
A. L., East Dulwich, London.
Simba has apologised for the distress caused and refunded the full amount. It passes on its best wishes to you.
Around ten years ago, my house had to be underpinned due to subsidence. I’ve always assumed I must stay with the same home insurer that did the work, but it keeps hiking my bills.
There has been no movement since. Would any other insurers be willing to cover me?
L. C., Coventry.
Many insurers will cover homes that have suffered subsidence. Check on comparison websites, such as GoCompare.com or MoneySuperMarket.com
Alternatively, call the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790 and ask to be put in touch with a firm specialising in underpinned homes.
In 2016, I bought a pay-as-you-go internet dongle from Vodafone for £25. When the credit ran out, I went to my local store to top it up. But, by the time I got home, the credit had disappeared.
This happened on three occasions, leaving me £50 out of pocket, but Vodafone still won’t accept responsibility.
K. H., Torquay.
Vodafone has sent you a new dongle with the missing credit and has added an extra £50 by way of apology.
A spokesman says the original dongle was faulty and apologises for your troubles.
Please help! I am trying to change energy supplier — do any websites make honest, like-for-like comparisons?
On comparison websites, I enter all the data required (annual kWh usage/payment made) but, without exception, comparisons are made between what I’d pay on the standard tariff and what their pet supplier will charge.
I suppose it’s too much to hope that a site out there will set out tariffs by listing cost per unit (kWh) and standing charge?
A. G., East Sussex.
These sites are making comparisons with the standard tariff because that is what you will be on when you move. They are comparing the latest offers with what you will be paying, rather than what you have been.
You can actually dig deeper into the tariffs simply by clicking the ‘full details’ option on results. This should show exactly the information you are looking for.
Regulator Ofgem has a code of practice for comparison sites and a list of accredited ones that are supposed to calculate costs in an unbiased way. These include uSwitch, Energyhelpline.com and MoneySuperMarket.com
To avoid getting only those that pay commission, you need to untick a couple of boxes. For example, with uSwitch, untick the box that says: ‘Email me news and money-saving deals.’
And when the results come up, there is a box on the left that says: ‘Include plans that require switching directly through the supplier.’ Tick this.
On MoneySuperMarket.com, click the box that says: ‘There are other tariffs available that can save you an extra £X a month but we can’t switch you to them. Show widest range of tariffs*.’
Switch.which.co.uk defaults to showing you all tariffs, though you can opt to see only firms that have a customer score.
Others have similar options — you just need to look for them.