Belfast Telegraph

Firm's action was cold comfort for couple with boiler trouble

By Psul Gosling

Question: I had a boiler installed by Eaga Warmsure, but have had problems since November 2010. This has led me to have a number of maintenance visits trying to solve the problems. Repeatedly engineers failed to attend as arranged, or turned up without the right parts.

On one occasion, equipment was left emitting smells and a discharge that caused my wife's eyes to go red and to be very painful. This caused my wife's existing eye condition to get worse, in our opinion. The problems with the boiler left our apartment cold, which was bad for our toddler son who was born 14 weeks premature. The insurer AmTrust has offered £1,100. We are not greedy people, but we believe this is an insult given what we have endured. CT

Answer: The boiler was installed by Eaga, part of Carillion. We are told by Carillion that Warmsure no longer has any responsibility for your boiler. Cover for this was provided by the Home SOS scheme, which had been arranged through Barclays and is now underwritten by AmTrust. Barclays tells us that it ceased having any responsibility for Home SOS late last year, before you lodged your complaint. Barclays advises us that it regards the offer made to you as reasonable. You have decided, on the basis of this, to accept the payout which was offered by AmTrust.

Question: I have been a client of Hargreaves Lansdown for many years. It has now told me to transfer my business to another broker and has frozen access to my investments, the income from which I rely upon. Some of the funds I am invested in are only available through the Hargreaves Lansdown Vantage wrapper and to continue to have access to them I must sell them, repurchase them direct from the unit trust company at full initial cost and in the process lose my ISA tax relief on them. NH

Answer: Hargreaves Lansdown is an execution-only broker and it believes that you require a broker that provides advice. Your portfolio is extremely complex, holding more than 200 investments - most of which could still be held through another broker, says Hargreaves Lansdown. It calculates that in the time you have been a client with the firm, it has serviced over 750 queries from you - which is inconsistent with its role as an execution-only broker. You say that most of these enquiries have not been to ask advice, but to request information.

Even so, this goes beyond Hargreaves Lansdown's specified relationship with a client. And the firm insists that many of your enquiries were asking it to conduct research on your behalf and to recommend investments. It describes your behaviour in lodging so many enquiries and complaints as "unreasonable". The firm adds that moving your funds to another broker would not have caused you to lose your ISA allowance and that it had agreed to waive all its normal exit fees. But you are clearly very distressed by the prospect of moving to another broker, which would involve you in significant costs.

On the basis of this, Hargreaves Lansdown has offered to allow you to continue as a client - on the clear condition that you act in a way that is consistent with its remit as an execution-only broker. You have promised to do this. Hargreaves Lansdown points out that it would only ever suspend its work for a client in exceptional circumstances and has done this just once before.

Its chief executive, Ian Gorham, adds that he believes you should take advice to reduce the size of your investment portfolio. "Such a vast portfolio will tend towards tracking indices very expensively and he is probably better off buying a small number of tracker funds and paying a lot lower annual management charges," says Mr Gorham.