Welcome to Ask Jasmine, the column where I round up some of the questions I have received from readers each week. This week, I answer questions about bad customer service, claiming benefits, investments and the energy price cap.
I hope these answers can help you with any questions you may have. Don’t forget to leave any questions you have in the comments below or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How can I deal with bad customer service?
- Am I entitled to claim benefits?
- Should I take money from my investments?
- Who sets the energy price cap?
I just want to say how much I enjoyed reading your article in The Mail about recommending friends to products and services, but I do recommend friends to a utility company who I know are crooks. I have to say, “I have reason to believe that BES Utilities are up to unethical practice”.
A tenant of mine used this company for electricity and has now vacated the shop and as Landlord I am responsible for any power used and a fee per day while the shop was empty. They make life so hard for me to pay them with their call centre staff in South Africa just so they can put on exorbitant late payment fees on.
My bill of approx. £55 has now escalated to almost £400, I get two texts every day and two phone calls that come up as suspected scam so refuse to give them any bank details and say send me an invoice and I will send you a cheque.
I cannot seem to shake this company off and want rid of them. Any ideas please. Thank you.
Thanks for getting in touch about this. What a nightmare! I asked one of my team to look into this for you and she has come up with the following (probably not much more than you know already I’m afraid!):
“They are not alone:
Yes, they do have a team in South Africa:
BES Utilities will only respond to complaints raised via their alternative contact methods.
If you decide to use Resolver, you’ll still be able to access our rights guides and template letters to assist with your complaint.
Please contact BES Utilities directly in addition to making a Resolver case. We are sorry for the inconvenience.
This is clearly a company with a long history of very poor customer care. There is an online chat and there are links complaints procedures:
I appreciate it will take energy on your part – can you find someone to act for him? Sounds like he needs an advocate. Or try citizen’s advice:
So sorry I couldn’t come up with anything better than this. However, we will be publishing your problem, and what we have found out, on MoneyMagpie.com which may help to build up the online news against this company. It sounds like they should be taken down!
All the best, Jasmine
Hi Jasmine, I would like to ask for your advice as to whether I am entitled to claim any benefits.
I retired early in September 2019 from the NHS and took my work pension which wasn’t a huge sum as I had worked for 18 years, but part time. My retirement was due to the fact that my husband who was retirement age was finishing work and I was suffering from stress due to having to do the work for 2 people for 18 months as a colleague was off long-term sick.
My husband and myself have always worked and tried to save for our retirement and we were doing okay with him supporting us both for the past 2 years, but with the present crisis hitting us all with high costs for everything and the fact I still don’t get my state pension until October 2023 when I reach 66, I wondered if there was anything I can do to try to get any benefit until my retirement.
Many thanks for any advice you can give me.
Thank you for getting in touch. So sorry to hear of your predicament. I suggest that you look at www.turn2us.org.uk to use their benefits calculator as they should be able to show you what you could be entitled to.
Also, StepChange’s benefits calculator is good. Their cost of living hub is another useful place to access information about the help that is out there for anyone struggling. You can also phone StepChange for help on 0800 138 1111.
If you have a Community Money Advice hub hear you, the specialists there are often really good at finding financial help for those that need it. Have a look at https://www.communitymoneyadvice.com/freedom-from-debt/find-a-centre to see if there’s one near you.
All the very best, Jasmine
I invested £100,000 last July through a financial advisor. These have unfortunately dropped to £88,000 and I don’t know what to do. My advisor says it’s a 5-year plan and they fluctuate especially with everything going on but I’m nervous.
Would taking half of it out to put into a savings plan be a good idea? Or ride it out? I may need the money sooner than 5 years due to a change in circumstances. Another option is to take it out and cut my losses.
It’s my first time investing. Hopefully you can help.
Thanks for getting in touch. Firstly, I have to say that I can’t give you financial advice – certainly not when it comes to stocks and shares – but I did speak to a financial advisor about your issue. David Braithwaite of Citrus Financial said this:
“Your reader’s adviser is right – if you are “investing” then you need to be thinking 5 yrs +. What hasn’t been mentioned though is the risk she is taking and how that was explained to her. I can only speak about how we cover it with our clients, we talk about the downside as well as the upside of investing. Often it’s explained as “attitude to risk” when for me it’s more about asking “what is your capacity for loss?” A fundamental question I ask clients is “if this investment lost money, at what point would this drop impact you”? So, if she is not happy that her funds have dropped so much, why was she taking the risk they have taken with it, and was this risk fully explained to her?
Her email however does explain her circumstances have changed, which seems to be unexpected. If this wasn’t known then it does make planning as an adviser or for her difficult as this change might not have been known at the outset, she could have left the funds there to recover.
I can’t give specific “advice” to her, and this isn’t advice, without knowing more details about her, but my general guidance to anyone who has seen a drop is to stick with the plan. If you cash out now in full or part, you are crystallising that loss, with no chance of that money recovering. What if she took the money out, took the loss and then reads that the markets went up and she has then lost out? It’s not about timing the market, but time in the market. History has shown that stock and shares will fluctuate but over the medium/long term will produce good results. I would urge caution over panic selling, stick with the plan, talk to her adviser regularly for updates on her funds and stick with it.”
Hope that helps 🙂
Can you tell me who sets the price cap for energy please? Whoever is responsible why is it set so high? To ‘cap’ something it surely means to limit it?
Good question! The energy price cap is set by the regulator OfGem.
They say that they have put the cap – as you say, the limit – up so high because the price of the energy that the energy companies buy has gone up so much. That’s their reasoning for it.
However, of course, there is also the VAT (5%) that the government charges and, even higher, the 25% ‘green levy’ that is charged to the energy companies that they pass on to us, so those extras put our energy bills up too.
All the best, Jasmine
Do you have a question for me? Leave it in the comments below, or email me your question on email@example.com. I may just answer it in next week’s Ask Jasmine column.
Speak next week!
Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence.