Banking

ASK TONY: Vulnerable victims of credit card fraud failed by John Lewis

My husband and I have had a John Lewis credit card for many years. Since February 2019, we have had numerous amounts for £7, £11.99 and £47.99 taken from our account.

I called John Lewis but it said it wanted to speak to my husband. I explained that he has dementia and went into a care home in March 2020.

I gave the firm the Government link to the Lasting Power of Attorney that I hold, but it says it cannot use this on its systems.

No help: John Lewis put two loyal elderly customers through hell by refusing to acknowledge the wife had power of attorney for her husband after their credit card was used by fraudsters  

Sending a certified copy was difficult because I am in my 80s and was shielding, but I did manage it. I then received an email on April 19 asking for the LPA again, even though receipt of it was acknowledged on April 7.

E. B., Harrow, Middlesex.

Tony Hazell replies: It took some time for both John Lewis and me to get to the bottom of what happened, but let’s summarise it as a complete failure to support a vulnerable customer.

You were forced to put your health at risk during the Covid lockdown last autumn because one of the world’s biggest banks could not use a government-backed system to authenticate your Lasting Power of Attorney, and then failed to offer a safe alternative.

That bank is HSBC, which operates John Lewis’s credit card.

The Office of the Public Guardian launched an electronic code system in July 2020 allowing financial firms to check an LPA without the attorney having to send paperwork.

HSBC had been part of the pilot, but the code was only being accepted on HSBC-branded products when you provided one in October last year.

The code system was not activated on John Lewis-branded products until April this year. So you were forced to get certified copies of documents and post the evidence. 

This meant leaving your home and mingling with people when you were supposed to be shielding to avoid a rampant virus, before vaccines were available.

Then John Lewis made an administrative error, which led to you being incorrectly told that the LPA forms had not been received and applied when, in fact, they had. Further delays occurred as John Lewis attempted to uncover the precise extent of the fraud.

The person I spoke to at John Lewis was mortified at the poor level of service you have received throughout this saga. 

She says: ‘We’re really sorry to Mrs B for what must have been a very distressing experience, and that she did not receive the level of service we would have expected.

‘We have spoken to Mrs B to apologise, refunded the money taken fraudulently, and offered her a gesture of goodwill.’

In addition to the £500 fraud wiped from the card when you first made contact, a further £282.26 has now been removed.

You were paid an initial £150 compensation, but further amounts have been added to make a total of £450. So, all in all, that is £1,232.26 in compensation and rebates.

You have YOUR say 

ASK TONY: Vulnerable victims of credit card fraud failed by John Lewis

Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. Here are some in response to our investigation into the red-hot renting market: 

What did the Government expect would happen after bringing in all of these new rules for landlords? We cannot sell our rentals quickly enough. No one in their right mind would go into buy-to-let now.

D. A., by email.

We are dealing with an unsustainable state of affairs. When rent increases start to outstrip wages the model falls apart. Tenants will just end up living with their parents again.

F. W., London.

I am a landlord and can only take a maximum deposit of five weeks’ rent. This is not enough, as tenants rarely pay the last month’s rent and assume you will take it out of the deposit.

R. D., by email.

Landlords don’t create housing, they take it away from potential buyers. There is a general housing shortage, so quite a few would-be buyers are moving into temporary rentals.

M. D., York.

I have some buy-to-let properties in the North-West and I haven’t found the new rules too tough. 

The value of my portfolio has risen by 14 per cent in a year. It’s not for everyone but, if you do it properly, it’s still a good model.

N. O., Manchester.

We are pensioners and have been renting the same apartment since 2017. Last week, the landlord told us he would be increasing our monthly rent from £700 to £1,000 — that’s a rise of nearly 43 per cent.

M. D., by email.

Homeownership in America has been falling quite rapidly over the past few years and rents are up, too. Large corporations are starting to buy up property to let out. I suspect that will happen here one day.

M. H., by email.

Why has DWP stopped my Carer’s Allowance?

Does anyone know what is happening at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Carer’s Allowance unit, as I can’t get hold of anyone online or by phone or letter?

I look after my 94-year-old mum who has heart failure, arthritis and dementia and have had to shield. The last Carer’s Allowance of £88.40 was paid on April 19.

I gave up work in 2014 when I had a salary of £1,100 per month. My caring saves the local authority a fortune but no one really considers this.

P. H., Slough, Berks.

Tony Hazell replies: DWP swung into action within hours of me alerting them to your problem. It called you and promised the arrears would be sent that night.

You received a back payment of £799.93. You will then get £44.44 per week, paid every four weeks — so £177.76.

BT cut me off after bank stopped my cheque  

I sent BT a cheque for £96.77 but it was stopped by my bank, the Co-op.

I posted a second cheque but received a second letter from BT saying the bill had not been paid and it was going to cut me off. 

I told BT I had sent a second cheque a week previously and had made sure that there were sufficient funds in my account. The next day I was cut off.

My bank contacted BT and transferred the money. BT reconnected me.

BT has now written again saying the bill has not been paid and I will be cut off.

I am 83 and, having lost my partner of 48 years 15 months ago, I rely on my landline to keep me in contact with loved ones and health care workers.

R. M., Bristol.

Tony Hazell replies: There was a muddle here, with BT and the Co-op Bank each pointing the finger at the other.

The original cheque bounced as there was not enough money in that account — even though you had plenty across all your accounts — and you were overdrawn.

BT says that the Co-op Bank bounced both cheques, but the bank reckons that BT actually presented the already-cancelled first cheque a second time, causing it to bounce.

BT says it advised you of alternative ways to pay the bill, and the Co-op transferred the money directly.

BT has apologised and has identified you as a vulnerable customer, so you will get the support you need.

I suggest setting up a direct debit so your bill is paid automatically.

I understand the staff at your local Co-op Bank branch have been helpful, so feel free to ask them to assist you.

Straight to the point 

We have had to change the date of our golfing break three or four times in the past few months. But easyJet failed to refund one of the flights.

M. E., Kent.

EasyJet says you requested your money back for all but one of the flights — which you changed to another date. 

As this flight went ahead, you were not entitled to a refund. But the airline has reimbursed you as a goodwill gesture.

*** 

HMRC sent me a tax code assessment but, when I opened it, I realised it was addressed to someone else. 

I am a widow who has lived alone at this address since 2007, so why does the taxman think another man is based here?

I. H., Borrowash, Derbys.

It sounds like this gentleman’s employer gave your address to the taxman by mistake. HMRC apologises and says it is very thankful that you brought this matter to its attention.

*** 

I bought a kettle from Lidl last year and it keeps leaking. Staff told me it only gives refunds within 30 days of purchase. 

But a customer service representative confirmed it was a year in this case, as I thought. So why can’t I get my money back?

C. S., Enfield, London.

You were right that you have longer to refund items, and Lidl has reiterated this to its staff. 

The store has now sent you a note to take with you to ensure you get your refund of £14.99.

*** 

The energy company SSE has been bombarding me with letters meant for the tenant who previously lived at a property I bought in June. The supplier says I owe money and has threatened legal action.

A. P., Leicester, E. Mids.

SSE has stopped sending the letters to the previous tenant and is waiting for you to provide meter readings so it can work out who owes what. You have been promised a goodwill gesture once the issue is resolved.  

  • We love hearing from our loyal readers, so ask that during this challenging time you write to us by email where possible, as we will not pick up letters sent to our postal address as regularly as usual. You can write to: [email protected] dailymail.co.uk or, if you prefer, Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT — please include your daytime phone number, postal address and a separate note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Tony Hazell. We regret we cannot reply to individual letters. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.

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