I have cancer and when I was going through chemotherapy, receiving only sick pay, I found myself in a sticky financial situation which resulted in me not paying back an overdraft with HSBC which totalled £2,016.77.
The bank assigned the debt to Mortimer Clarke Solicitors which kept calling me, despite acknowledging a reasonable adjustment request not to do so.
I agreed to a payment plan of £50 a month but this was suspended due to Covid.
After the hold was removed I asked if the earlier amount could be reinstated and it said I needed to fill in another form. I did this but had no response, despite chasing multiple times.
A cancer patient found herself in debt and is now being threatened with court action
Mortimer Clarke said it is now going to enter a CCJ against me, which means I will lose my job, at the same time I am recovering from chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I can’t afford to take them to court and just want to reinstate paying £50 a month. Can you help me? R.C., via email
Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: I am sorry to hear about diagnosis and can only imagine that being in debt made the situation much more difficult.
Unfortunately, you had to stop working for a year as you were receiving treatment and only received basic sick pay, meaning inability to pay back the £2,000 overdraft.
The bank contacted Cabot Financial, a debt collection agency, who then passed on the debt to Mortimer Clarke Solicitors, which act as debt purchasers for it.
GRACE ON THE CASE
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At first, the payment plan was agreed which suited all parties.
However, the pandemic hit not long after and you still have not been able to return to work, meaning money has been tight.
The solicitors suspended the payment plan, knowing times were tough, but then removed the hold several months later.
Although you asked to reinstate the original £50 a month deal, the solicitors said there were a number of forms you needed to fill in first.
Whilst you did this, Mortimer Clarke then apparently lost the information and not long after it raised a county court judgment (CCJ) against you.
One of the reasons for this were that it had not received the correct forms with it being revealed you used the wrong reference number. However, you were not notified of this until after it issued proceedings.
Another issue is that it said it had telephoned you advising you of its position but in one of your complaint responses, it advised it had removed your telephone number due to your reasonable adjustment request, leaving you confused about what was really happening.
You say you feel the solicitors have been bullying in their behaviour and are frustrated that it has ignored your correspondence.
Even more concerning is the threat of a CCJ, which, if entered, could mean you lose your job.
A payment plan of £50 was set up but this was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic
You have spoken to a solicitor which it advised it will cost you at least £800 to defend this matter and bring Mortimer Clarke to court – an amount you cannot afford.
I contacted Mortimer Clarke as, even though you will certainly need to pay back your debt, it didn’t seem fair you were unable to continue on the agreed £50 payment plan.
A Mortimer Clarke spokesperson said: ‘Mortimer Clarke Solicitors prides itself on doing the right thing for the customer and want to ensure all customers receive the appropriate outcome for their individual circumstances.
‘When the debt was taken on by our client there was no information to suggest the customer had health issues.
‘At the time the claim was issued, Mortimer Clarke Solicitors did not have information to indicate that Mrs C had current health issues which affected her ability to address the debt.
‘Mrs C has since provided information about her current condition, and to gain a full understanding, we asked Mrs C for more information.
‘We have acted properly and reasonably. However, as a gesture of goodwill, the court claim is now being discontinued and the matter will be closed with Mortimer Clarke Solicitors.
‘We have spoken to Cabot Financial who is willing to agree a new affordable repayment with the customer, once they have ensured that the £50 is indeed going to be manageable for the customer.’
Mortimer Clarke added telephone contact was stopped after you requested this and it subsequently only attempted to reach you by telephone when it didn’t receive a response to its letter.
It added court proceedings were only issued following a number of attempts to agree to an affordable and sustainable payment plan which aligns with standard practice to resolve a matter without litigation first.
However, fortunately, you have confirmed it has now been possible to reinstate the £50 payment plan and you have now started paying it back.
Anyone else who is having trouble with debt can visit debt charities such as StepChange who give free expert advice.
A Vauxhall customer was angry after the firm said it would be impossible to update his sat nav
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.
Miss: Car company, Vauxhall, were criticised by customer, David this week after it revealed it wouldn’t be able to update his sat nav.
He said: ‘I have a 5 year old Vauxhall Mokka Techline which is fitted with a Nav950. Some months ago I contacted my local Vauxhall dealer and asked to book my car in for a sat nav update.
‘I was advised it no longer provides this service and I should go to the Navteq website and order the appropriate memory stick.
‘I emailed Navteq who advised me the update had been withdrawn and I may never be able to carry out an update. I went back to the dealership who advised me to contact Vauxhall customer service.
‘I was offered a free service as an apology for my inconvenience but if accepted, would mean the case was closed. I will decline as it was never about the money.
‘There must be thousands of people who own Vauxhalls with this sat nav system and I am amazed a company as big as Vauxhall can allow this situation to continue. Not only is it inconvenient but it must surely devalue the car.’
I contacted Vauxhall as it seemed very unfair that you were unable to update your sat nav at all.
Luckily, it recognised this wasn’t good enough and has managed to order not only you, but other customers, an update.
A Vauxhall spokesperson said: ‘From 1 November 2021, we are pleased to inform you that David and all other customers with a sat nav that wish to order a navigation update, will be able to do so from the supplier.
‘In addition, I am pleased to say, as a goodwill gesture, we have offered to reimburse David for the cost of his navigation update – an offer he has accepted and is pleased with.’
Not only was your sat nav updated but you received £80 as a gesture of goodwill.
This was a complete reversal from Vauxhall and you have navigated a good deal – along with many other happy customers. That’s how you steer a miss into a win.
Hit: In happier news, reader Karen, praised company, Rituals.
She said: ‘I ordered two luxury advent calendars from Rituals. Due to an error with my address it was not delivered to me and the person it was delivered to would not relinquish it.
‘I contacted the company via WhatsApp. They asked me to try and retrieve the parcel then get back to them.
‘I contacted them the next day and amazingly they offered to resend the calendars at no extra cost. The calendars were worth £120.
‘I think this is fantastic customer service and definitely worth a mention.’
It is good to know the firm is making a ritual out of good customer service.
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