Been ripped-off? Moneywise gets your money back
This month Moneywise tackles issues concerning PC World, Lifestyle Choices and the tax man.
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PC World won’t replace my laptop
We bought an HP laptop from the Leamington Spa branch of Currys PC World last November and decided not to pay extra for the PCKnowhow care package for the first year in the belief that the manufacturer’s warranty would suffice.
However, we’ve had nothing but trouble with this laptop. It’s already been back for repair four times, each time with different problems – a faulty power cable and switching itself off randomly, for instance.
At the most recent repair, the keyboard was replaced as the laptop would randomly stop accepting what you typed in. Every time I took the laptop in for repair, I had to manage without it for at least a week and had two 20-mile round trips to drop it off and pick it up.
I took the laptop back yesterday for its fifth repair before it goes out of warranty at the end of the month. PC World has now offered me a four-year care plan for ‘just’ £156.
I feel as if I am being forced to take this as I have no confidence in the laptop and know it will go wrong again. Surely, this isn’t right?
A clause of the extended offer is that on the fourth separate mechanical or electrical failure I could request a replacement. However, PC World says I will have to start counting the repairs again, so effectively it won’t be replaced until it has failed nine times.
I have tried to ask for a free care plan both in store and with Knowhow customer services over the phone, but to no avail. Its customer service representative also frustrated me by referring to a mysterious ‘they’ who wouldn’t let him change the offer. Who are these people, I wonder?
My preferred solution would be a new laptop with a new warranty. Failing that, a free four-year care package, or a care package where it would be replaced on its next failure.
DR/Stratford upon Avon
The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1 October 2015, which gives consumers 30 days to reject or get a refund if an item is faulty.
Unfortunately, DR had the laptop repaired and his laptop was almost out of its one-year guarantee period when he approached Moneywise.
Currys was within its rights not to offer a replacement laptop. However, given the amount of problems DR had with the laptop, it was unreasonable to expect him to pay for the four-year care plan. Fortunately, after we contacted Currys PC World, it agreed to waive the cost of the plan.
A spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that DR experienced issues with the laptop he bought from Currys PC World. We always look to solve customer problems as swiftly as possible and in this instance we’ve offered the customer a free support agreement. We’ve spoken to him and he’s happy with the outcome”.
DR said: “I contacted Moneywise as I felt I was being unfairly trapped into buying an extended warranty for a product I had lost confidence in after multiple problems.
Other than a replacement laptop, this seems like the best outcome we could get. I am glad PC World compromised in the end, but disappointed that this was only after I went through Moneywise.”
Lifestyle Choices won’t let me cancel my membership
I was out shopping on 30 September 2015 when I had a phone call from Lifestyle Choices offering me membership to get its special deals and cashback offers. She said that if I paid £2.95, I could get a £10 petrol voucher without joining, so I gave her my bank account details.
A few weeks later, I noticed Lifestyle Choices had taken £78.22 out of my bank account. When I rang up the company to say I didn’t want to join the scheme, I was told it was too late to cancel but it would make a note to stop any future payments. I really want my money back.
Can you help?
Lifestyle Choices is a club that you can join whereby you get discounts on restaurants and hotels, as well as cashback offers, for an annual fee of £78.22.
When I spoke to its customer services department, I was told that it had explained that SP had the right to cancel within two weeks if she didn’t want to join and that it had also written to her. It also had a recording of the phone call.
However, SP says she was in a busy shopping centre and couldn’t hear properly but was under the impression that she wasn’t joining anything.
She also says she never received a letter from the company. She only realised there was a problem when £78.22 was taken out of her Lloyds bank account – after the 14-day window to cancel had expired.
As SP had paid for her membership through Lloyds Bank, Moneywise contacted the bank to see if it would offer her a refund via the Chargeback scheme, whereby you can ask your bank to try to get back the money you paid by making a chargeback claim.
There is no guarantee that a bank can recover money, or that the company will agree to offer a refund, but it is always worth a try, and, in this instance, Lifestyle Choices didn’t challenge SP’s claim.
If membership had cost more than £100 and SP had paid by credit card, she could have made a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, where the credit card company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the company.
Moneywise asked Lifestyle Choices to comment on the case but at the time of going to press, we had received no response.
A spokesperson from Lloyds Bank said: “After being alerted to the fact that SP had some unexpected debits leaving her account, in accordance with her wishes, we blocked any further transactions and refunded the payments already taken as part of the chargeback procedure.
The merchant has not challenged the chargeback request within the 45-day window, so the refund will be honoured by its bank.”
I can’t afford to pay back the £1,200 tax that I owe
I am Bulgarian and lived in the UK for two years from 2009 as a carer, visiting clients in their homes. I worked on average 78 hours a week and the company who employed me took my tax via PAYE.
In July 2014, I received a letter from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) saying that I had underpaid my tax by just under £1,200.
By then, I had moved back to Bulgaria, was and still am unemployed and have no savings.
The care company I had worked for had not taken enough tax but it has now ceased trading, so I can’t complain about the fact it got my tax wrong.
I don’t have enough money to pay back the tax I owe. I am so worried and just don’t know how I’ll ever repay this debt – even paying it off in monthly instalments is not an option for me.
Can Moneywise help?
The problem CB faces shows the importance of checking your tax code rather than relying on your employer to get it right. You can check you are on the right code for income tax by looking at the tax code on your payslip or HMRC PAYE Coding Notice.
You can then visit HMRC’s tax checker at Gov.uk/check-income-tax or by calling HMRC on 0300 200 3300.
After I contacted HMRC to discuss CB’s case, it agreed to waive the tax owed. An HMRC spokesperson said: “ESCA19 does not apply in this case [If HMRC delays notifying a taxpayer that there is underpaid income tax].
We told CB of the underpayment within the time limits and normally the tax would still be due. However, due to the unique circumstances in this case, we have agreed to give up the tax due.”
After HMRC called her to say the underpayment would be written off, CB said: “I was so happy I cried on the phone. It’s silly how some things can get you down, so thank you – you have no idea what this means to me.”
Used by an employer or pension provider to calculate the amount of tax to deduct from pay or pension. A tax code is usually made up of several numbers followed by a letter. If you replace the letter in your tax code with ‘9’ you will get the total amount of income you can earn in a year before paying tax, for example 747L would mean a person could earn up to £7,479 before paying tax. The wrong tax code could mean a person ends up paying too much or too little tax.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.