ACTION DESK: Wade through the financial jungle

Kathryn Hogg with letters from a claims management company who have charged her �600
Kathryn Hogg with letters from a claims management company who have charged her �600
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OCCASIONALLY a problem is so complicated Action Desk has to call in the experts.

Kathryn Hogg’s finances were such a mess that even though she successfully reclaimed £1,699 of personal protection insurance, it was set to end up costing her £600.

She signed up with a claims company after talking to a woman from Challengeyour.com on a stand in Hillsborough Precinct.

It was a cold November day and Kathryn, aged 39, was carrying shopping bags, there was no chair and no privacy – and she failed to read the small print.

She later provided details of an old Halifax loan account and Challengeyour.com got to work.

But when Halifax refunded £1,600 all of the money went to pay off Kathryn’s debts, because four years earlier she had signed up to an individual voluntary arrangement with a debt management company – a fact she had told the Challengeyour.com rep.

Challengeyour.com then billed her directly, demanding its 30 per cent, some £611.76.

Kathryn, of Ironside Road, Gleadless Valley, said: “I didn’t even know if I had ever paid PPI. I didn’t want to do it, but she was giving me so much in my ear. I would never have signed up if I’d realised there was a fee to pay.”

Action Desk called in Steve Wilcox, of Sheffield CAB Debt Support Unit, a friend of The Star who has helped readers before.

He said: “Challengeyour.com appears to have acted improperly in asking Kathryn to sign a contract when it was clear from what she told them she could not benefit from this.”

He sent a letter to the company which Action Desk followed up with a phone call to director Daniel Goldberg.

ACTION

ANOTHER Action Desk-CAB success! Mr Goldberg did not provide a statement to The Star, but contacted Steve to say they would no longer be pursuing Kathryn for money.

Frustrated by leaking boiler

AFTER weeks of uncertainty over the boiler at her home, Gina Shaw just wanted warmth and peace of mind. She rang Action Desk claiming it had been leaking for two weeks – and continued to leak after a Kier engineer came out to fix it.

Gina, who lives on Fairbarn Drive, Stannington, with daughter Isabelle, aged four, says the problem arose after a new boiler was fitted in November but leaked and then broke, leaving them with no heating for a week.

It had been installed after an older one broke in September leaving them with no heating for six weeks, she claims.

ACTION

KIER sent a worker and supervisor to Gina’s home, after a call from Action Desk, and they repaired the leak.

A worker then returned the following day to check it was working properly.

A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm the boiler is now fixed. We received a call about a leak and visited the property on the same day.

“The operative found a small amount of water in the boiler tray, cleared it and checked the boiler thoroughly and could not find a fault.

“A technical engineer returned to the property two days later and, after an extensive investigation, found a fault and fixed the boiler. An operative returned the day after to check the boiler was in full working order, which it is.”

Quick U-turn from DWP

“I LIVED in the dark and went to my mum’s for tea.”

Pregnant mum-of-one Charlotte Newton was plunged into serious financial trouble when her £130 fortnightly employment support allowance – her only source of income – was stopped.

She rang Action Desk claiming the Department for Work and Pensions told her it was because she had failed to turn up for a Job Centre interview in June last year.

She was told she could reapply, but it would take nine weeks for the money to come through. And she was ineligible for a crisis loan because she had already had three, the maximum amount.

Charlotte, aged 25, of Pawley Road, Foxhill, said she and son Tyler, aged four, had gone four weeks ‘without money’.

She said: “We’ve been living in the dark and went to my mum’s for tea. I don’t understand why the money was stopped, I don’t remember missing an interview, and I don’t know why it took six months to happen.”

ACTION

THE DWP has restarted Charlotte’s money.

A spokesman said: “We have been in touch with Ms Newton, her ESA had been reinstated along with any backdated benefit she was owed.”

Charlotte said: “They contacted me the day after Action Desk rang to say there was £298 in my account. Thank you.”

Advantages of Credit Union

The authors of the Sheffield Fairness Commission report – the latest survey of the state of the city – recommend that everyone joins Sheffield Credit Union.

Jackie Hallewell, general manager, said the endorsement of their role in providing affordable credit was invaluable.

She said: “As a not-for-profit organisation, we don’t spend huge amounts of money on expensive advertising to raise awareness of our services, as we know many of the high-cost lenders do.”

Man’s struggle with the bailiffs

A SHEFFIELD man who received a bailiff’s letter over someone else’s debt claims he struggled to set the record straight.

John Holmes was alarmed when Marston Group sent a letter to his Gleadless home for £253 addressed to a man called Jevgenij Suckel. It said that unless the total was paid within seven days: ‘our bailiffs will attend to levy distress and remove your goods for sale by public auction’ at a further cost of £215.

Marston Group is contracted by HM Courts and Tribunals Service to enforce warrants for non-payment of fines.

John phoned the police to inform them of what he thought could be a possible fraud and then phoned the company to say Suckel had never lived there and to pass on the incident number.

He says he was told someone would come out and confirm his identity. But two months later he received another letter.

Mr Holmes says he rang the company again and – after half an hour on hold – the call centre worker put him through to the bailiff who did not know details of the case.

On February 13 his CCTV system recorded a bailiff hand-delivering another letter. John says he rang the firm again and an employee apologised.

John, of Bowman Close, was asked for he email scans of his identification, but declined to provide these.

He said: “I didn’t know if we were going to come home and find stuff gone.

“I’ve no idea who the money is owed to. Marston will not tell me because I’m not the debtor.”

ACTION

MR Holmes said after Action Desk’s call Marston chief executive Gareth Hughes rang to apologise and said no further action would be taken.

A Marston Group spokeswoman said: “We have an established customer care process to help individuals who receive a letter addressed to somebody who does not live at their address.

“We want to make sure we are in touch with the right person and that is why we ask that evidence is provided as soon as possible regarding proof of occupancy so that no further action is necessary.”

Housing group pays for damage

KEITH Chadburn’s problem withSanctuary Housing is resolved.

Keith, of Woolley Wood Road, Shiregreen, contacted Action Desk in October about £1,000 damage to his car caused by a slate which blew off a neighbouring home, belonging to the housing association, in high winds in December 2011.

He had it repaired through his insurers Saga, but paid a £200 excess and saw his premiums rise.

But he knew if Sanctuary admitted responsibility and paid Saga the repair costs he would get his money back. Action Desk repeatedly contacted the housing association and was eventually told its loss adjusters were in contact with Keith’s insurers.

ACTION

SUCCESS – Keith has received a cheque for £200 to cover his excess and Saga has been paid the £800 balance.

Action Desk: Write to David Walsh, The Star, York Street, Sheffield S1 1PU or ring 0114 2521307

Email: david.walsh@thestar.co.uk