YOUR LETTERS: EACH MONTH THE READER WITH THE BEST LETTER WINS £100 IN M&S VOUCHERS
THIS MONTH’S STAR LETTER ★
IT TOOK ME FIVE MONTHS TO GET RID OF SPARK ENERGY
Iread the ‘Fight For Your Rights’ pages in the November issue of Moneywisewith interest and I can now see that my own experience with Spark Energy was not a one-off.
I too had a ridiculous situation, having inherited Spark Energy when I moved into my current home. I wanted to switch to npower but Spark Energy tried every trick in the book to prolong my stay with it as long as possible.
We exchanged various emails over a couple of months and it was extremely frustrating and stressful. It was impossible to get hold of someone and I felt like I was forever on hold. I also had to give several meter readings before I got it sorted. All in all, it took five months before I finally got rid of the company.This is not acceptable. JUSTIN JENKINS/EMAIL
Moneywise replies: It sounds like you had an equally frustrating time as Kate, who featured in our November issue. The behaviour of Spark Energy really wasn’t good enough in that case and, from hearing your story, it seems that the company needs to pull its socks up. Changing energy providers can be tricky but you did the right thing in leaving a company you weren’t happy with – it’s just a shame it took such a long time.
For anyone looking to change their energy provider, check out Moneywise’s switching service at energyhelpline.com/Moneywise
WHY BANKS GIVE YOU THE SILENT TREATMENT
Irecently came into a moderate sum of money, which I put it into my Lloyds TSB current account while I decided how best to invest it. Surprise, surprise, within a couple of days I was bombarded with
YOUR FINANCIAL PROBLEMS SOLVED:DON’T STRUGGLE ALONE WITH FINANCIAL BUREAUCRACY,WE’RE HERETO HELP
BY NATHALIE BONNEY BY
Are you struggling to resolve a dispute with a company? In this section, we promise to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of your problem. If you’ve been treated unfairly by your bank or are owed compensation for shoddy service, send us your complaint and Moneywise will take up the fight on your behalf.
Stuck in a meter reading loop with my energy supplier or my housemates it was a two-rate meter. In response, Spark Energy asks for further meter reads on 8 June 2011, which it can use instead.
9 June Night and day readings are sent through and I receive confirmation from Spark Energy that these details have been received.
I’ve had trouble sorting out my gas and electricity bills with my energy supplier Spark Energy.After moving into a new house at the end of April, I was told by Spark Energy to get back in touch in May with new meter readings, so that the current £100 direct debit could be adjusted accordingly. I did this but have since been involved in an email exchange that has now gone on for more than four months. Here’s a bit of a taster as to what I have had to endure:
25 May I email Spark Energy with meter readings as instructed.
27 May Spark Energy informs me I have a two-rate meter and asks me to send over a day and night reading for electricity and gas use.
2 June I email the two readings. Spark Energy replies and says the gas readings match Spark Energy’s estimates but the night or low rate reading for electricity is lower than Spark Energy’s estimated read and can I provide the moving-in night and day rates?
3 June I inform the supplier only one reading was taken by my landlord on move day and that he didn’t tell me
13 June I email Spark Energy to ask it to confirm if there is any money outstanding on the account and if the direct debit will be readjusted. Shockingly I receive a reply, informing me of a “slight issue” with one of the readings and asking me “kindly” to provide the move-in read.
14 June I explain what I’ve already been asked to send over.
15 June Spark Energy wants more readings.
“You just keep taking £100 from my account each month. It’s
23 June I send them. 3 July I send an email asking for the issue to be sorted. 3 August Still nothing! I email:“Can someone please reply to my email to confirm how much our bill should be. It is now coming up to four months since we moved into our property, I have taken numerous meter readings but still I have not received a bill, you just keep getting rather frustrating”
taking £100 from my account each month. It’s getting rather frustrating.”
Spark Energy replies, asking me to confirm how many £100
payments have been debited from my account.
4 August Three £100 payments have been debited, I tell Spark
Energy. Guess what it comes back with? “If you could please advise us of the up-to-date meter readings so an accurate bill can be generated and we can see if your direct debit should be adjusted.”
fi ghts for your rights fi ghts for your rights
WRITE TO MONEYWISE
I’m desperate – what can I do? Katy Neil/London
INSTEAD of going through the same, seemingly thankless, process again, Moneywise stepped in and directed Katy’s ongoing saga to Spark Energy’s press office. For the first time, she was not asked to provide yet more meter readings, but just had to confirm that the latest ones emailed across were correct. Once this was done, Spark Energy finally adjusted the direct debit from £100 a month to £75 and confirmed
Write to us (including your name, address and telephone number) at: Fights forYour Rights,Moneywise Publishing, Standon House, 21 Mansell Street, London E1 8AA.
How can we “forget” insensitive Santander’s mistake?
Santander sent a statement to my dead grandad,but as I succeeded his tenancy, I luckily received the letter. It said that it had“credited”my grandad’s old Abbey current account,so my mum went to the local branch to see about collecting the money.However, Santander told us that this was a mistake and to“forget about it”. I have used mylostaccount.org.uk to try to locate the account but cannot that Katy and her housemates were £100.12 in credit. While our dealings with the press office were easy compared to Katy’s Groundhog Day experience, in total
“Santander sent a statement to my dead grandfather, then told us to ‘forget’
it took four months, 25 emails and the intervention of the press office via Moneywise to finally get the issue resolved. Simply not good enough!
WHAT’S disappointing in Laura’s case is that a relatively small admin error has the potential to cause wider personal ramifications. Receiving post for a family member who has passed away is deeply distressing. We forwarded this query onto Santander’s press office, along with Laura’s contact details so that it could find out her late grandfather’s account details.
the Brunner InVestMent trust plc
Wherever there’s growth, there’s Brunner.
www.brunner.co.uk 0800 389 4696
Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. The price of shares and the income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the money originally invested. Issued in the UK by RCM (UK) Ltd., which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Registered office: 155 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AD. Registered in England No. 2014586.
16 MONEYWISE | NOVEMBER 2011
Blog of the month: THE PERNICIOUS PERILS OF GROUPON
BY NATHALIE BONNEY BY
If you’d asked me what a group-buying website is a few months ago, I would have had a hazy idea that it’s something about ‘buying... in a group... on a website’, but not much more.
A couple of my colleagues, however, would go on about the wonders of group-buying companies, including groupon.co.uk, livingsocial. com and groupola.com, where huge percentages are slashed from the original retail value of hundreds of deals. From cupcake-making classes to mini breaks in Europe, you can easily bag a bargain on one of these websites.
When I found out Groupon was offering heavily discounted gym passes, I signed up straightaway.The offer – 10 gym passes at LA Fitness for £18, apparently a 70% reduction on the original £150 price – this was too good to turn down.
I duly placed my order. A day later and I’d also purchased an afternoon tea and spa day for two, priced at £99 in total. I didn’t need either but one look at the original price of £348 was all the evidence I needed to warrant my second Groupon buy in as many days.
And with at least a couple of emails dropping into my inbox each morning, who knows what other ‘steals’ I’ll be tempted by?
Printing off my gym pass vouchers was somewhat of a challenge, with the necessary barcodes not initially displaying. I then discovered I’d have to use them up within six weeks – two weeks earlier than the initial advertised deadline.
As far as Groupon deals go, I would say that any savings are significantly offset by the barrage of emails I’ve since received, sneaky terms and conditions and a buying and redeeming process seemingly designed for Mensa members only.
8 MONEYWISE | JANUARY 2012
WWW.MONEYWISE.CO.UK £100 IN M&S VOUCHERS
YOUR LETTERS: EACH MONTH THE READER WITH THE BEST LETTER WINS £100 IN M&S VOUCHERS
WRITE TO MONEYWISE
Write to us (including your name, address and telephone number) at: Letters, Moneywise Publishing, Standon House, 21 Mansell Street, London E1 8AA.
Or email us at email@example.com Alternatively, you can air your views at moneywise.co.uk on our blog or forum pages. Web phone calls and personally signed letters from my local branch inviting me to see the manager or a branch adviser.
Despite the fact I have held my account with the same bank since 1989, I have never heard from it before as I only had a nominal sum in the account.
Am I being suspicious or is the reason it contacted me simply to do with money? Is it the thought of all the commission it will receive if I invest with it the real reason it contacted me?
In the end, I decided to invest the money in premium bonds instead. And guess what? As soon as the money left my account three months ago, I’ve heard nothing from my bank. Here’s to another 20 years of silence. PAUL DIXON/TYNE & WEAR
Moneywise replies: Unfortunately, rewarding customer loyalty is rare in the case of high street banks.You may have been a Lloyds TSB customer for more than 20 years but it would be unlikely to make any personal calls unless something changed with your account.
For all the latest news and updates from the Moneywise team, follow us on Twitter: @moneywiseonline
Become our friend on Facebook at facebook.com/ moneywiseonline
BOOK GIVEAWAY The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C Bogle (£12.99) Successful investing is not easy but it is all about common sense. Filled with in-depth insights and practical advice, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing will show you how to incorporate founder of The Vanguard Group John Bogle’s proven investment strategy into your portfolio and promises to change the way you think about investing. To win one of 10 copies, send a postcard with your name and address to Investing, Moneywise, Standon House, 21 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AA by 10 February.
IS IT RIGHTTHAT PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS ARE STRIKING?
22% YES: It’s unfair public sector workers are being targeted. They provide a service and should get the deal they were promised
35% NO: Public sectors have been riding the gravy train for years. It’s about time their pensions were brought in line
Banks seem far fonder of new customers these days. However, there’s nothing stopping you from contacting your local branch to ask for an update.
20% NO:Things are bad for everyone.Why should public sector workers be any different?
23% YES: It’s the bankers who should be taxed, not the nurses and teachers
If you continue to feel let down by Lloyds TSB, it might be worth changing banks.The switching process is a lot quicker and easier than it used to be and shouldn’t take longer than eight weeks. Voting with your feet is sometimes the only way to get banks to sit up and listen.
S30149_F&C PRESS_MoneyWise_Jan12_67x181 v2_Layout 1 12/12/2011 14:48 Page 1
Total votes: 827 The poll was taken from 30 November to 6 December 2011
Build an ISA that matches your investment needs and more
Issued and approved by F&C Management Limited. Authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Registered office: Exchange House, Primrose Street, London EC2A 2NY. Registered in England and Wales No. 517895.