Pricewatch: Have you been paying a standing order you had no idea about?

Reader has been charged by company that no longer exists since 1983

‘Not noticing a standing order for a relatively small amount of money leaving your account once every six months is not something to beat yourself up about.’ File photograph: iStock

‘Not noticing a standing order for a relatively small amount of money leaving your account once every six months is not something to beat yourself up about.’ File photograph: iStock

 

We got a mail from a reader called Gráinne about a company we’re pretty sure only a handful of readers will know anything about. Despite the fact that the company in question disappeared from our landscape before Ray Houghton put the ball in the English net, poor Gráinne has been paying them just under €100 a year right up until recent days.

The company is RTÉ Relays and earlier this month Gráinne was looking at her bank account and she realised that she had been paying them €45.71 twice a year, every year, since 1983.

Now that might not sound like a huge amount of money, but we did the maths – well we got our phone to do that maths for us – and were horrified to realise she had spent €3,473.96.

“I was hoping you might be able to put me in the right direction as to how I can get these monies back,” writes Gráinne. “I don’t know where to start and I feel like a right idiot allowing this to happen, and for so long.”

Well first off we don’t think Gráinne should feel like an idiot. People have a lot going on in their worlds, and not noticing a standing order for a relatively small amount of money leaving your account once every six months is not something to beat yourself up about.

It is also worth pointing out that she is not alone. We have actually covered this story before, just more than six years ago.

Back then we heard from a reader called Michael who had been paying €60 to RTÉ Relays since 1984 and he had been able to establish that the once-a-year standing order had been going to a UPC account in Ballsbridge.

Of course, UPC no longer exists either. But it meant we knew where to start looking to see if we could find out what had happened to Gráinne’s money.

So RTÉ Relays changed its name to Cablelink in 1985. At the time Cablelink wrote to customers to stop their standing orders and set up direct debits instead. Cablelink had no power to cancel a standing order as only an account holder can do that. Cablelink then became UPC and UPC then became Virgin.

We were told in 2015, by a UPC spokeswoman, that less than two dozen people were still paying off a portion of their bills with the money from the standing orders.

This time out we went to Virgin to see if it could find out what had happened to Gráinne’s money and, as luck would have it, we found ourselves talking to exactly the same spokeswoman we had dealt with six years ago.

Virgin said it would be in touch with our reader and would help clarify what has been going on.