Fergus Muirhead answers your consumer questions
I'm Fergus Muirhead and I'm here to answer any questions you may have about any money or consumer issues.
Please drop me a line here at email@example.com with your questions.
You can also read more on money and consumer issues on my own blog.
Almost three weeks ago we had a delivery of furniture from a company, some of which was delivered damaged. We duly got in contact with their after sales people, sending pictures of the faults we could find along with the quality assurance labels and descriptions of the faults. Initially they were very helpful, assuring us that they would do their best to help and so on, however, when mention of exchange or refund was made they became very awkward to deal with. All we requested was a simple exchange of the faulty goods for undamaged ones or a partial refund of the price of the damaged items. We spoke with an agent who, despite protestations, booked a "technician" to inspect and attempt to repair the damaged items. We were unaware of this booking until the repair company called me that morning to book a time to visit. Upon calling them again I was told that this was standard procedure in the event of faulty goods and no refund or exchange could go ahead without this visit, despite a previous agent telling me that the pictorial evidence was sufficient to effect this action. I was also informed that when this technician does come out, only then can we refuse the repair, which they will then note in their report, thus dragging the whole process out further. It appears to both of us that this company is trying to wriggle out of any liability by sending a guy over to give the chest a rub down with sandpaper and then okay it. Fraser Dawson
Let's start by saying that furniture can be a difficult issue since there are often differences between the furniture that you see in a showroom, and what is eventually delivered to you, only because different bits of wood look different. Having said that, there are several standards that anything you buy has to meet, and if they don't then you are entitled to redress from the retailer. It is fair that they get to examine the goods that you claim are faulty, and they can either do that by looking at the photos you send or by sending a technician to examine. If they accept that the goods are faulty and they offer a repair then you can accept the repair with the caveat that if it doesn't work you get a refund or replacement. I'm glad to say that in this case, after I spoke with the company concerned, they agreed to send you replacement furniture, so alls well that ends well.
My wife has a credit card with a well-known bank. They ask for a minimum payment, which this is what she can afford, but the interest is so high that her balance is not going down even though this card has not been used since 2005. Her balance in 2007 was £4,233 but it is now £3,419. The bank asked her for a minimum payment of £90 and took £88.40 in interest, and just £1.60 off her account. Between 2007 and 2012 they have only taken £814.19 off the balance of the account, which means they have taken £3,419.03 in interest. We have written to the bank about this and they say they disagree that their interest is high. What do you think and is there anything else we can do? Barry Atkinson
You haven't said what rate of interest your wife is being charged on her credit card but your story highlights one of the major problems with credit cards, and with only paying back the minimum amount every month. As you say, the vast majority of your monthly repayment goes to paying off the interest that is charged on the account, and it looks as though your will have an outstanding balance forever at the rate the debt is being repaid. I would speak to the bank and tell them that you would like interest on the account to be waived for the next 12 months to help you clear the balance more quickly. They may ask you to let them have details of your current income and expenses and you should provide these as accurately as you can. That way they can make an accurate assessment of your ability to pay and it may be that they will waive interest payments, at least for a time, to help you decrease the capital outstanding on the account.
I am pretty sure that I took out a loan in 1998 with payment protection insurance. As a self-employed person at the time, I wonder whether I should not have been sold this? I don't have any records of this loan now. Am I stuck without records/account numbers etc, or is there a way to make a claim? John Cashmore
First of all you need to check whether you had a policy or not and if you have no records of your own then you need to go to your lender, and ask them to let you have a copy of your loan agreement. They may not have it in your case since it was taken out so long ago, but it is the place to start. If you did have a policy you then need to establish in your mind whether you were sold it incorrectly - some PPI policies were perfectly good and provided sensible cover for people. The reasons that a sale might have been inappropriate would be that you had medical issues or were self-employed at the time and wouldn't be able to make a valid claim. If you think that is the case then you need to make a claim. If you do get to this stage then please do it yourself - don't go to one of the hundreds of companies out there advertising to get your money back for you, as it will only cost you money. It's not the most difficult thing to do - there are lots of free sites online where you can choosing the one that suits you best.