ASK TONY: HSBC put the cat among the pigeons after closing our account

I am secretary of my local pigeon racing club and our account has been closed by HSBC without reason.

The bank asked for additional information for ‘know your customer’ compliance, which I supplied at our local branch.

It has now sent a cheque for the £1,473.10 we had in our account. But the cheque is made out to the same account so we cannot cash it, and I am unable to open a new one under that title.

Bird brained: HSBC closed the bank account of a pigeon racing club for no apparent reason then sent a cheque for the balance made out to the same account

This leaves us unable to pay our fees to the Royal Pigeon Racing Association. I wrote to HSBC but have not had a reply.

A. D., Waterlooville, Hants.

Tony Hazell replies: I received a response from HSBC in which it mentioned the need for ‘know your customer’ checks to prevent financial crime. 

But it didn’t explain why a pigeon racing club with £1,400 assets should have its account closed, especially after you visited a branch twice.

It says an initial letter regarding the ‘know your customer’ checks was sent to you on November 28, 2019, plus reminders and an extension to keep the account open until September 20 last year.

The good news is that your cheque has now been reissued and HSBC has arranged for the account to be reopened. The bank is paying you £200 in compensation, too.

You have YOUR say 

Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. Here are some regarding our article on the energy firms sitting on billions of pounds of customers’ cash: 

The energy firm switching system is broken and, after many years, I have given up. I run two accounts — one for my elderly mother and one for myself. Both providers went bust in December, which caused a lot of stress.

G. F., Portsmouth, Hants.

One firm refused to refund us, even though we were in credit when we switched away. It sent us an unrealistic and huge bill, before threatening us with debt collectors if we questioned it.

T. J., Bolton, Gtr. Manchester.

There should be a law that forbids firms from taking more than what they charge you for the energy used that month. It would prevent large credits accumulating in accounts.

D. C., Torquay, Devon.

It really hacks me off when firms hike and lower monthly direct debit payments. 

Some of us would rather have a healthy amount of credit building up over the summer — rather than have our payments cut and then increased by £50 later on.

G. T., Lincolnshire.

Paying in is easy, but when it comes to getting your money back the whole process seems to be designed to frustrate you. Never give up if a firm owes you money — it’s how they win.

C. S., Kent.

I pay £105 a month but my energy firm wants me to increase this. I appreciate that it’s been cold lately, but surely it should be able to forecast for summer and lower your payments.

G. D., via email.

I went to Ofgem to get my refund. It took a while, but the provider was forced to pay me the money it owed as well as compensation. It seemed to run its business by sitting on customers’ cash.

M. G., London.

 

Speaking clock talked grandmother out of £107 

My 87-year-old grandmother has advanced Alzheimer’s and I am her only next of kin. I visit her almost daily, do her shopping and deal with all of her finances.

She has taken to ringing the 123 number (the speaking clock) many times each day.

Last year, she rang it 330 times, even though her telephone is no more than 12 in away from a normal clock. Last month alone she rang the number more than 100 times.

I have asked Virgin Media, her landline provider, to block these calls or release her from the contract.

Last year they cost her £107 —nearly equivalent to a week of her pension.

R. W., Caterham, Surrey.

Tony Hazell replies: What a wonderful granddaughter you are. Those who have relatives with Alzheimer’s will understand the extreme pain of watching someone you love fading, while having to cope with their obsessive behaviours.

Virgin Media at first appeared to respond well when I highlighted your plight, and refunded the £192.77 your grandmother had spent on the calls.

The firm also added a premium-rate call-barring service free of charge, and applied a month’s worth of services at no extra cost. But then you told me that your grandmother was still able to call 123, and the company said it could not block this number.

When you requested that the contract be cancelled, Virgin Media initially demanded a £200 disconnection fee, but a more senior person agreed to you giving a month’s notice instead.

Meanwhile, your grandmother could still make these 123 calls. So I went back to Virgin, which agreed to refund any 123 call charges your grandmother incurs until the account is closed.

Now for the good news. I asked BT if it could help. You told me a ‘charming lady from customer service’ called you to arrange a transfer to BT, which will block the 123 number.

She also provided you with her direct line and email address in case of problems. Now that’s what I call service.

BT can come in for a lot of criticism, but on this occasion it wins all the accolades.

Straight to the point 

Every time I try to pay for a Just Eat takeaway order with a debit or credit card, my payment fails. 

My Barclaycard was compromised in March 2020, but I have not used it on the app since. Why won’t Just Eat let me order a pizza with another card?

J. M., Hackney, London.

Just Eat blocked your card payments, but now says this was a mistake and has corrected it. It’s also given you £25 credit on the app.

*** 

My mother passed away in August last year. I sent the electricity meter reading to her provider, Bulb, and was told I would be paid more than £100 which was owed in credit.

But I have yet to receive anything other than two emails asking how well I think the firm did when it came to handling my request.

R. T., via email.

Bulb has apologised and admitted it didn’t handle this well. It says it owed £131 in credit on your late mother’s account, but has doubled this by way of an apology. 

It has also paid back an extra £60 because of the delay.

*** 

I ordered a Samsung fitness watch through a student website. It was meant to come with a free gift of Galaxy Buds Live wireless earphones, but these failed to arrive and I’ve been chasing Samsung since February.

L. O., via email.

Samsung says the buds were not correctly added to your basket, voiding the promotion, but admits you did not receive the best customer service. 

It has now given you a replacement code so you can get the buds.

*** 

My husband bought me a £70 mobile phone from Carphone Warehouse in March last year, but the charging cradle didn’t work and I wasn’t happy with it. 

The store he visited closed permanently a week later, so I wrote to the retailer to request a refund. It has ignored all of my letters.

L. H., Salisbury, Wilts.

Carphone Warehouse apologised for the delay in resolving this. It has refunded you and given you £20 as a goodwill gesture.

Son’s missing £250 Child Trust Fund cheque

My son was born in 2002 and received a Child Trust Fund cheque for £250.

We are an Army family and were posted to Germany, so I never had the opportunity to cash the cheque. I recall receiving a letter which said the money was automatically put in an account with RBS.

Last week, a friend dropped off old mail from nearly 15 years ago, which had been left in the post room at the camp in Germany. This included some information about the Child Trust Fund money.

Could you find out what became of his cash and bank account?

A. R., Co. Waterford.

Tony Hazell replies: I received your letter in November last year. As you know, this has involved quite a bit of detective work, but diligent RBS staff have finally found your son’s account. So well done to them.

Now we come to the next hurdle. Although the account matches your son’s date of birth and is linked to the barracks address in Germany, RBS requires his National Insurance number.

However, your son left the UK with you when he was 12 so did not receive his NI number ahead of his 16th birthday.

RBS has supplied a number for him to call so he can discuss how to gain access to his money.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

Would pet insurance cover me if my dog was stolen?

I am concerned about the rising level of dog theft in my area with multiple cases being reported.

When I take my dog out for a walk I keep a careful eye on her and often have her on a lead.

However, I am still worried that someone might take her. 

I am looking at getting pet insurance as it is but was wondering if most policies will cover me for dog-napping?

There has been a rise in dog theft recently with the pups often sold on by criminal gangs

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: There has been a dramatic rise in dog theft in recent times with it estimated the problem has increased by 250 per cent since March 2020, according to charity DogLost.

Dog owners are now much more cautious about taking their pooches for a walk due to the so called surge in ‘dognapping’.

It is thought that criminal gangs steal the dogs to sell them on which has now led to the prices of puppies soaring with owners often paying thousands for a pedigree breed.

Many will take to social media to appeal for help should their beloved pet be stolen but you are now wondering whether you can make a claim on pet insurance.

Although this won’t help prevent theft, and will provide little solace to those who lose their furry friends, there are a number of pet insurers that do offer help should your dog be stolen. 

Most help with advertising costs to help find your pet, for example, missing posters whilst others also help offer a reward.

Many of these policies will insist your pets are microchipped, however, as is required by law. 

Despite many offering cover for lost or stolen pets, the average amount of cover for pet theft has increased by just 4 per cent on average despite the price of puppies doubling in lockdown, data from Defaqto shows. 

This means customers will be unlikely to get the full price of their pooch returned if they bought it recently.  

Its research also found 1 in 6 dog insurance policies provide no cover for lost or stolen pets at all. 

The average premium for a dog insurance policy in 2020 was £456, however it is important to note that this could include more than one dog in each policy, said the Association of British Insurers (ABI).  

We asked some of the major pet insurers what cover they provide in this situation. 

LV= Pet Insurance said if a policyholders pet goes missing and isn’t found within 45 days it will reimburse the amount the owner paid or donated for it, up to a maximum of £1,500.

However, in order for the claim to be processed, the policyholder must, within two days of their dog going missing, call the local authority/welfare centre/relevant governing body and be able to provide evidence of this.

Additionally, if a pet is lost or stolen and adverts are needed to find them, LV= will reimburse advertising costs up to £1,500 and any reward they want to put up, up to £500.

Direct Line Pet Insurance will also cover you if your pet is stolen or goes missing and isn’t found within 45 days. It will pay up to £1,500 of what you paid for them. 

Customers will also be provided with up to £1,000 towards the total cost of advertising, which includes a reward of up to £500. 

The RSPCA is another such insurer that offers protection against theft or straying up to £2,000, covering the purchase price of your pet if they are stolen or go missing.  

Owners should ensure their dogs are microchipped, as required by law, to help find their pets

Owners should ensure their dogs are microchipped, as required by law, to help find their pets

An RSPCA spokesperson replies: It’s really concerning to see an increase in dog theft within certain areas of the UK and we’d urge anyone who believed their pooch has been taken to report the incident to police immediately.

As an animal welfare charity the RSPCA doesn’t deal directly with pet theft – leaving criminal matters such as this to the expertise of police – but we believe the rise in dognapping could be as a result of the surging popularity, and value, of fashionable and ‘designer’ breeds.

We’d urge all dog owners to take extra precautions to protect their pooches from thieves by neutering their pets, ensuring they are microchipped with up-to-date contact details registered and they wear a collar with contact details embroidered or an engraved ID tag.

We’d also advise that owners never leave their pets tied up outside shops or alone in cars, ensure their gardens are secure with gates locked, and ensure their pet has a good recall and doesn’t stray too far when off-lead on walks.

Anyone who suspects their dog may have been stolen should immediately alert police, contact their microchip company to register their pet as stolen and inform local rescue groups, vets, dog walkers and neighbours.

It is a legal requirement to have dogs microchipped but it is not against the law to leave other pets, such as cats, without a chip. However, the RSPCA would encourage all owners to get their pets microchipped.

Thousands of pets are lost and stolen every year and many are never reunited with their owners but microchipping can help to change that.

If an owner moves house or changes their telephone number they must make sure that they tell the database they are registered with so that they have up-to-date contact details.

Some dogs are stolen from their homes whilst others are snatched when in a public place

Some dogs are stolen from their homes whilst others are snatched when in a public place

Mubina Pirmohamed, head of pet insurance at Compare the Market, replies: Some pet insurance policies can cover advertising fees, reward money and compensation if your pet goes missing as standard, whereas others offer this as an optional extra, or not at all.

As the cover varies, it’s important to check any policy carefully before you buy to make sure it includes the cover you need for your pet.

An ABI spokesperson replies: Insurers handled £1.6million worth of dog insurance claims each day in 2020. There has been a fall in the number of people taking out pet insurance for dogs despite the rise in dog owners. 

Pet insurance is essential for any dog owner to protect against theft and medical treatment should your dog get ill or injured. When looking for a policy it is important to shop around for the best deal.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: There are a couple of other things you can do to help keep your dog safe, according to Confused.com.

This includes ensuring you are vigilant when out for a walk. If someone is acting suspiciously, for example following you or insisting on holding your dog, try and get away and phone the authorities.

Secondly, only let your dog off the lead if you know they’ll come back to you. If they only come back some of the time, keep them on the lead.

You could try using an extendable or long lead that’s strong so thieves can’t cut through it.

There have also been some reports of dogs being unclipped from their lead and taken away.

To stop this, replace your usual lead clip with a carabiner lock as this type of lock has a twisting mechanism which will be harder for thieves to unclip. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.