Your rights... Dermott Jewell, consumer expert
Dud bank notes, switching phone providers and a company in receivership... What are your rights? Our expert has the answers
Question: I took €100 from a bank ATM. I went into a shop nearby to buy cigarettes, handed over one of the 50 euro notes from the ATM and the shopkeeper told me it was a fake. I went to the bank, they took the note and they told me I needed to fill out a form and that they would get back to me. I was not at all happy but they insisted. Surely this is not right?
Dermot replies: Usually you are at a complete loss when you get a dud note. The fact that it came from the ATM is only a slightly better scenario. The note was taken from you because it is a criminal offence to keep or recirculate counterfeit banknotes or coins. The banks will usually insist that you complete their form and then advise that it can take as long as eight weeks before you hear back. In fairness, this is just not good enough! As it was an ATM and you have the record from the bank, I suggest you call your branch manager and demand your refund into your account by close of business. Note to all: Always check for the watermark, a see-through number at the top left of the note, security thread down the centre of the note, hologram patch and raised print on notes. (I'll bet you're all looking for the see-through number!)
Question: I have been a business customer with one of the big two mobile providers here in Ireland for more than 10 years. The company always paid my mobile bill on time and I would be a 'good' customer. I recently changed my job and applied for a new phone personally. They are looking for all sorts of detail and assurances before signing me up. Who can I complain to?
Dermot replies: You really have little grounds for a formal complaint here. This was a business account, the contract was with your company and they were providing the security. Your circumstances have completely changed and this is brand new business as far as the provider is concerned. That said, when they have cleared you - and they will - I suggest you give them a call, outline how you have been a former business customer and ask for consideration of a deal on the model of phone in acknowledgement of your loyalty in returning. In the meantime, I am getting the impression that it is your former usage that is determining that you have not looked at any of the other offers out there. I suggest you go to www.callcosts.ie; key in what you would envisage your needs to be and see what this site suggests is the best deal and provider for you. The site is set up by the regulator ComReg and is well worth a visit - and it's free advice!
Question: I paid a deposit on some cabinets and tiles for a kitchen revamp that we are doing. I have now learned that the company has closed in the past two days and is going into receivership. What does that mean to me? Is there a difference between a receiver and a liquidator?
Dermot replies: Liquidation happens when there is acknowledged impossibility to pay all of the debts that a company owes. Too often, when this happens, it is the consumer as an unprotected creditor who loses most if not everything. A Receiver is appointed where there is security given for a loan or mortgage and the lender believes that there is a risk to their specific loan and see an immediate necessity to have their agent appointed to sell whatever is necessary to get the value of the loan - now.
It can de devastating to a business that is trying to just about keep its head above water. However, it is a warning nonetheless that cannot be ignored. The basic difference here is that there may be money left to continue trading after the receiver gets paid. If I were you I would go down there and work hard to get goods to the value of your payment or your deposit back in full - either one to be immediate!
Dermott Jewell is a consumer rights expert and the Policy and Council Adviser at the Consumers' Association of Ireland. If you have a consumer-related query you'd like Dermott to help you with, get in touch at email@example.com