/ Money

The fees you could live without

Fees and charges

You’ve been sharing your stories of the everyday fees that really wind you up, from contract termination charges to the cost of updating your address…

Just when you think you’ve got your finances nicely under control, up pops a charge for something that you really don’t think should cost you anything. Naturally, some charges are to be expected and many of them are completely reasonable, but you’ve told us recently on Which? Conversation that there are plenty of fees out there that you don’t think make sense.

A charge crept up on Methvano right at the end of a house sale:

‘Just sold house (in Scotland) and solicitor of buyer deducted £19.20 fee for cost of his client’s money transfer on the sale day, to my account, on the final piece of documentation, which made the sale legally binding. Was I going to withdraw at this point because of this, would you? Daylight robbery!’

Pauline Seaman was not impressed with Saga:

‘We’ve just moved house and Saga charged us £45 fee to change our address on our car insurance. We will not renew with them!’

Excess waiver insurance on car hire can cost a lot more than it needs to, but Simon spotted one possible benefit:

‘If you don’t take out the hire car company’s excess insurance, they’ll usually want a hefty deposit on a credit card. It’s not so bad if they simply put a hold on the deposit amount, but on my two most recent hires, they took the deposit as an actual payment. This was for £1,800 in Iceland, and €950 in Spain. This means that when the refund eventually arrives, the exchange rate might have changed, and you can lose again (as it happened though, I gained £40 from the Iceland hire).’

Lost connections

Moving house, starting a new contract, ending an old one, upgrading to a ‘better offer’: all these situations can lead to headaches and cheeky fees. Joseph Cronshaw was talked into a deal that wasn’t quite what he bargained for:

‘I was coming to the end of my contract, and I checked with BT about the earliest date I could cancel, using the contact form. I got a call from them mid evening, going into how they might be able to help me overcome some of the reasons why I was considering leaving BT. After quite some time going back and forth with different offers, the person convinced me I was on the wrong plan, and came up with a new one that was much cheaper; it also included a mobile phone card for £10 per month. I accepted. Within two months, the bill had climbed back to where I was before, and I asked them to cancel the mobile phone. And then the big shock: I was locked into an 18-month contract and could not cancel the mobile phone even though they could see I had not used it, because I have a Pay as You Go phone that I have been using for years.’

Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about extra fees from your phone or internet provider, as Katie Bainbridge has experienced:

‘Moving house and having to start a contract from scratch with your provider or else be charged (depending on how much time left the contract has to run) a massive fee. If you rent, therefore have to move frequently, the chances are that the only way to get rid of the damned provider is to pay the huge fee, usually the remaining months in full, or leave the country! I’ve been stung by Talktalk because I could not transfer the line. I have a line I cannot afford to cancel all in one go and a service to pay for that I cannot use. Talktalk are holding me to the contract. Not a nice experience…’

Swapping between providers can throw up a few pricey surprises too, as Peter from Carshalton explains:

‘Some years ago I changed from BT to Virgin for my TV, broadband and phone. I have always had a BT Internet.com email address. Unbeknown to me they started charging £1.60 a month for the privilege some time ago, but have now upped it to £5 a month. BT never bothered to contact me about the £1.60 a month charge. To change my email address after all this time would be real pain in the backside—so now I am lumbered with paying £60 a year for having a BT address.’

What’s the most recent surprising fee that you’ve encountered?

Comments
Member

Sneeky fees ?? – Methvano-sale of house in Scotland charged £20 I said a short while ago if anybody checks up with Scottish land+house purchase law you are legally entitled to a FULL costing of solicitors charges before the work is done , if he didnt (the client ) ask for that then dont blame the lawyer. Peter from Carshalton -again this was brought up and I pointed out that BT is a private company what do you expect them to do if you leave them ? keep providing the service free/gratis . Other companies wont let you do that . It was pointed out in a “blaze ” of publicity that BT was going to do this , everybody had the opportunity to decide for themselves as to the position they would take . If Peter took 2 minutes to visit BT,s website he could find this out also its archived even on webpages , or could have logged into MY BT to get the info. I wont repeat the T+C I have already posted them here but if anybody is still not convinced I will. Talk -Talk holding you to contract ?? what do you expect ? , you agreed to the conditions of service check out every other telephone company, some are quite lenient but they all stipulate , you agree with it ,you pay for it . I would have thought that examples that could be given that were more solid in their ability to be heavily criticized would have been used .

Member

Several years ago I renewed my car insurance by phone and informed the representative that I would be retiring soon, and gave the exact date. He asked me to let them know when this had happened. I did this and was told that there would be a charge for amending my details. I was not pleased and after further discussion the fee was waived.

I can appreciate that many factors affect risk and changing your address could be a valid reason for a supplementary charge because of the location of where the car is kept and driven. Changing a mobile number or email address would attract a fee, and they don’t affect risk.

When I have used this anecdote before it has been pointed out that it costs the company money to make the changes, but I see the recording of minor amendments as part of the service I have paid for. Where changes require a reappraisal of risk then that should at least be explained.

Member

I sympathise with your view, wavechange but with competition among insurers to keep costs down, I don’t think you can assume such admin costs are “part of the service”. Other customers who don’t make changes would then be subsidising those who do.

Member

Perhaps we could compare this with running a current account which is generally free if you stay in credit, even by a small amount. Banks provide many services without charge, including ATMs, branches and internet banking. Some make heavy use of these services and others do so infrequently.

Is it too much to expect insurance companies to let us make minor changes without charge? Obviously any changes that affect risk may incur extra charges. I am pleased to report that I will be with a motor insurer that does not charge for minor amendments, though that was not the reason I changed, just a bonus.

Member

Some while ago there was a Convo about ATMs and a plea for them to be free. Now we seem to be suggesting it is unfair for banking services to be free. Confusing, isn’t it. 🙂

Member
robert C says:
17 July 2016

agreed, and it is probably a contractual obligation to keep them informed. Surely minor changes such as email address or phone should be FOC – esp if you can update them on-line yourself. Revised risk is of course a different matter. Retiring? Not commuting to work? less miles? I’d expect a refund.

Member

I wonder how many of so-called “sneaky fees” are actually in the contract conditions that are accepted when you buy a service? It would be appropriate to know this when using them as examples. I presume that a contract would be unenforceable if an undisclosed condition was imposed.

Member

Hi Malcolm, I’ve tweaked this to be about the fees that have surprised people. They’re not quite the sneaky fees we’ve been talking about in our campaign. Sorry about that.