Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday's ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
D.J. writes: My 84-year-old disabled wife needed a tooth extraction, which was carried out at Mydentist.
Following this, she suffered pain and returned to the practice where she discovered the dentist had also removed the cap on the tooth next to the one extracted, exposing the root. A new dentist said she needed a root removal at hospital, but because of lockdown this took six months to arrange.
She then went back to Mydentist to replace the capped tooth, only to be told the original dentist had left the country, and she now faces costs of over £2,000 for repair work.
Cover: All dentists are required to have insurance in case there are problems
Tony Hetherington replies: You have told me that when you asked whether the missing dentist was insured against making dental problems worse instead of better, Mydentist replied that it did not have records of his insurance cover. You also gained the impression that Mydentist, which has branches all over the country, does not actually employ its dentists but simply provides premises and equipment.
Armed with a legally binding consent letter from your wife, allowing the company to discuss her treatment, I approached IDH Group Limited, the Manchester business behind the Mydentist chain. But extracting information was a bit like, well, pulling teeth from an unwilling patient.
Mydentist refused point blank to talk about your wife. It told me: 'Unfortunately, we are unable to share specific details about a patient's treatment or dental history, even with their consent.' The company later conceded that it would share those details if you hired a solicitor to do battle with it, but there was no way it would talk to me.
It did tell me that under General Dental Council rules, all dentists are required to have their own indemnity insurance and are personally responsible for the treatment they provide. And it added that it was not correct to say that the company does not employ its dentists, and simply rents out premises.
So does this mean that Mydentist employs all the dentists at its branches? Actually no, it does not. It finally told me it has both employed and self-employed dentists. So where does this leave your wife and her hope that she could claim under the missing dentist's insurance policy?
Mydentist sidestepped the issue of whether its departed dentist was properly insured, but after a lot of pressure it issued a statement, saying: 'We have thoroughly investigated this issue and want to ensure the patient's concerns are quickly addressed. As a gesture of goodwill, we will therefore be completing the patient's current course of treatment at the practice at no extra cost.'
Since Mydentist refuses to talk about what went wrong with your wife's original extraction, or about her current treatment, I have to assume that her latest spell in the dentist's chair is aimed at putting right whatever went wrong so many months ago, and that she will not be charged for this. If any of this is wrong, please tell me and I shall be glad to return to the problem in print, no matter how much Mydentist squirms and tries to hide what really happened.
What's the point of this Utility?
R.S. writes: My gas and electricity accounts were switched from Utility Point to a cheaper company while the accounts were £607 in credit.
Utility Point said I would be refunded within ten days, but no refund came. I contacted the firm again and was told payment was not possible as it was inundated with refund requests.
Twice since then I have received the same reply.
Tony Hetherington replies: I asked Utility Point to comment, hoping for an explanation as to why it was too busy to handle refund claims. I was told to expect a response within seven working days, but none came.
However, when I told Utility Point we would be going ahead with publication of your complaint, it suddenly burst into life, telling you (rather than me): 'We sincerely apologise for the delay in issuing your refund; this is due to a large influx of refund requests which the finance department are working through as quickly as possible.'
A fortnight later the refund landed in your bank account, together with an extra £30 to make up for the delay. Bad customer relations, followed by bad press relations, do make me wonder about the company's management.
WE'RE WATCHING YOU
The Financial Conduct Authority hopes to have squeezed a further £25million out of Toby Scott Whittaker, the man behind the collapsed Park First scheme which sold car park spaces to 4,500 investors.
The watchdog has already secured £33million from the sale of the company's car park at Luton Airport, but even if the latest deal with Whittaker is honoured in full, investors will still be left well out of pocket.
Victims of the scheme, which the FCA has condemned as illegal, have lodged claims for around £150 million, but sources close to the scandal say total losses may well exceed £200million.
Action: Toby Scott Whittaker whose victims are claiming £150million
Sales of the car park spaces began in about 2014, with investors told to expect yields of ten to 12 per cent. The FCA ruled that it was actually a collective investment scheme, similar to a unit trust, and was being operated without the regulator's approval, which is a criminal offence.
The watchdog also claims that marketing material included 'false or misleading statements'. Penalties for operating an unauthorised investment scheme can be up to two years in prison. But in 2017, the FCA decided not to prosecute the promoters if they allowed investors to reclaim their money or switch to a similar but legal contract which the FCA and Park First put together.
And in what Park First admitted to me was a secret agreement, the watchdog allowed the company to delay refunds as long as it could. The business collapsed into administration in 2019 after failing to keep pace with demands for refunds.
Investors will now be asked to approve a company voluntary arrangement, allowing Whittaker to pay £25million in instalments. If they approve, Whittaker and fellow director John Slater will admit they acted illegally. If investors reject the deal, the FCA plans to go to court next year, seeking compensation for investors. But there are no plans to prosecute anyone.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.