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Beware what is said on the phone

Woman on phone
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 1204 GMT On Radio 4 and Online

"This call maybe recorded for training or monitoring purposes" is a phrase we're used to hearing when we ring a call centre - but what does the recording mean for us?

Money Box listener David Lee called Aviva in May this year to ask for information about his endowment policy which was due to mature in August. The call centre assistant was seemingly very helpful.

But when August arrived Mr Lee found out that his policy was paying out nearly £3,500 less than the figure he was told on the phone back in May.

He requested the recording of the conversation he had with customer services to check what their advice had been.

Mel Stein is a lawyer who has written a book called "How to Complain". He speaks to Money Box about recorded conversations.

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Court success for Standard Life pension fund customer

Nearly a year ago Money Box reported on the Standard Life Pension Sterling Fund. It was marketed as a cash fund where pension money could be safely deposited.

But without telling its customers or their advisors Standard Life put nearly half the money at risk in other assets - including bundles of sub-prime mortgages.

The result was that people could and did lose money. After many complaints Standard Life decided to compensate some customers for some of their loss.

But customers who invested before 23 December 2008 were excluded.

One of them, John Petrie, took Standard Life to court. This week he got the judgment he had been hoping for when the judge ordered the insurance company to return the sum lost with interest.

You can get a copy of the court judgement in John Petrie's case by sending £5 to Milton Keynes County Court, Witan Gate East, Central Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK9 2DT. The court will not take payments over the telephone. Quote case number 9MK01114, John Petrie and Standard Life 4 December 2009.

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Pitfalls of online shopping

More and more of us are looking online to buy our christmas presents - this month we're expected to spend five billion pounds buying through websites, up 14% on last year.

But it can involve a large element of trust if you haven't used a particular site before. There are basic precautions you can take, but if the goods ultimately don't arrive, how easy is it to persuade anyone to take action against the firm involved?

Trading Standards can investigate- but what does it take for them to be spurred into action?

Bob Howard speaks to a listener whose purchase failed to arrive after buying it on computerwebstore.co.uk

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Death of the cheque

No cheques will be cleared after 31 October 2018.

That's the plan of the Payments Council, the consortium of banks which run the plumbing our money travels through.

The council has wanted to get rid of cheques since it was set up a couple of years ago. And now it has set a date. But if you want to know what the alternative to the cheque might be - the answer is in the post.

But by setting a date it hopes that answers will be found. And if they are not by 2016 then reports of the cheque's demise may have been exaggerated.

Patrick Poncelet of the European Banking Federation tells the programme how other countries got rid of the cheque.

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Energy deals best online

With temperatures hitting minus eight in some parts of the country this weekend many people, if they can afford it, will be turning up the heating controls in their home.

Energy companies of course will be rubbing their hands with glee as our consumption rises over the festive period.

Households are on average paying more than £100 per month for gas and electricity but in recent weeks a price war has broken out - if you have access to the internet.

Those people taking advantage of web deals are saving themselves up to 25% or £300 a year, but is that fair on people who choose to pay a different way? And with so many energy tariffs to choose from how do you know you are getting a good deal anyway?

Money Box hears from Joe Malinowski from the comparison site, The Energy Shop.

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BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday at 1204 GMT and repeated on Sunday at 2102 GMT.



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