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Bill trouble after nursing home move | The Crusader | Finance

The dispute over a sum of just £25 turned so sour that debt collectors became involved and demands sent to the home caused even more upset. 

Yet as Cliff Ayre began wrapping up his father-in-law’s account with phone company TalkTalk in May, everything seemed straightforward. 

He was authorised to act and it seemed just a matter of explaining the change in circumstances, cancelling the direct debit and settling the account. 

In early June a letter from TalkTalk confirmed the cancellation, saying it would take 30 days to complete. 

Cliff had ended the direct debit and took up the offer of sending a cheque to cover any remaining charges. 

His understanding from the letter was that a final bill would follow. When he came back from holiday in early July he paid the £14.98 for calls, but not two extra charges he saw amounting to £25. 

He thought they were for ending the direct debit but as there was no longer one in place he saw no reason to settle.

The outstanding £25 was then put in the hands of an agency to recover. 

It contacted his father-in-law, 88, in the home as the account holder, a move that Cliff claims caused him unnecessary upset. 

“I don’t see any justification for these charges,” Cliff told Crusader, explaining why he was standing his ground. 

“They have confirmed in writing there are no early termination penalties. They must realise from correspondence I want to settle this properly.

The account only finished at the end of June, which was the date chosen by them.

I paid on July 11, there was a final demand on the 31st and my cheque was cashed in mid-August. It just beggars belief they resorted to debt collectors so quickly. 

When I have called to explain I get someone different each time and they don’t get my fundamental point.”

This had the potential to rumble on disastrously, so we asked TalkTalk for a review to clarify where these extra charges had come from and if they could be cleared, along with any negative credit markers if they had been applied. 

It seems the additional charges were for late payment regarding a due bill date on June 12 Cliff was clearly unaware of and that was not mentioned specifically in the key letter regarding the cancellation process he received on June 2.

Following the review, TalkTalk said: “We are very sorry about the issues encountered. We have cleared the outstanding charge and offered to compensate him £75 as a gesture of goodwill.”

Cliff recognises there has been progress but he is concerned about the credit record consequences and continues to press for written confirmation all has been cleared.

This dispute has led to worry and been a chronic waste of time for all involved. However it is a stressful situation, when families help older members tie up their affairs, that can only become more frequent as the population ages. 

In this case the family had the authority to act, as a lasting power of attorney arrangement was in place, which did help and their address for being the main contact was properly recorded too but it still shows how things can go awry.

Companies definitely have a duty to explain clearly what is expected, not just clutter instructions with a lot of online links. 

But it is worth getting any process spelled out again for your own satisfaction, so you know what will be coming, such as a final or interim bill, and when.

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