Fight for your rights: “Thousands refunded to readers this year — but it’s not all about the money”

The thing I will miss most about being Moneywise’s consumer champion is helping readers who are more vulnerable.

Hannah Nemeth
Wed, 07/29/2020 – 10:06

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The thing I will miss most about being Moneywise’s consumer champion is not so much the money I’ve managed to claw back from companies – averaging at about £1,000 a month – but helping readers who are more vulnerable. Sometimes their stories don’t get mentioned on these pages, either for lack of space or for fear that readers will be identified.

The complaint I’ve found most rewarding to resolve in recent weeks involves a thoughtless attitude by a telecoms giant and a victim of domestic coercion.

Our reader wrote in to say that she was divorced after experiencing coercive control throughout her marriage.

She had changed her household accounts to her name, but her Sky account was still in her husband’s name – even though she was paying the bills. She said Sky was “unsympathetic” and asked her to speak to her ex about closing the account.

She felt uncomfortable doing this, but eventually emailed him, but instead he just arranged a better deal.

Nervous of challenging him, she told Moneywise: “I have now resigned myself to having an account that is not in my name and receiving phone calls and emails from Sky addressed to my ex.”

When I spoke to Sky, I was told that Sky subscriptions could not be transferred, though it does try to help in exceptional circumstances, adding that as long as our reader had the password she could speak to the team and make changes to payment details.

But Sky was missing the point – her partner still had control of the account unless he closed it.

Sky explained that a stumbling block was that there was a credit agreement for a mobile phone in her husband’s name on the account. Unless the bill was paid in full, Sky said the account had to remain in his name.

But after several weeks of toing and froing, Sky said it could arrange to have the TV contract cancelled and a new account set up under the reader’s name. It offered her Sky Cinema for free for two months as a gesture of goodwill.

Our reader was happy with that, saying: “It is such a relief to have it sorted and to know that I am in control of my account.”

A Sky spokesperson says: “Sky is committed to supporting customers affected by domestic abuse and we have made access to online support services and information free of data charges. The customer is now in control of the account and we’re sorry it took longer to resolve than it should have.”

This case shows how staff on the ground may not be trained to look at the bigger picture and at individual circumstances. But the great thing about being a consumer journalist is that you can flag up these complaints and hope that it will lead to a better understanding and a change in policy in the future. 

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Fight for your rights: “Thousands refunded to readers this year — but it’s not all about the money” The thing I will miss most about being Moneywise's consumer champion is helping readers who are more vulnerable. ...