I set up my mum’s mobile phone account a few years ago. She’s 91 and needed a new handset, so I rang to get her number transferred to the new micro SIM. Despite creating her account, I couldn’t help as I’m not the account holder. With my support, Mum called and sorted this out, but how can I avoid this in future?
This sounds frustrating but there’s a clear, legal obligation to ensure service providers retain and respect account holders’ confidentiality, especially given the increase in scamming and online fraud.
‘Luckily, it’s relatively easy to use available legal channels to help an ageing relative manage their affairs. The solution is a lasting power of attorney (LPA),’ explains Michael Hatchwell, partner at Child & Child, Globalaw.
‘An LPA will enable the nominated attorney to manage either property and financial matters or the health and welfare of a person making the appointment – or both. There is a different form for each. For phone accounts, you’d need to be nominated as a property and financial matters LPA.’
LPAs must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. Submitting a copy of the LPA to the phone company should ensure it can deal with you in future.
Is it too late to apply for an LPA?
Ofcom also requires telecoms providers to offer third-party bill management, so a customer can nominate a friend or relative to manage their account. You can speak to the service provider, receive and pay for bills, but won’t be able to make changes to the account.
‘An LPA is better as it allows you to do all those things and should be the only document required for you to assist your mother with her property and financial affairs,’ says Michael Hatchwell. ‘An LPA also lasts until death and survives the loss of mental capacity (of the person making the appointment).’
To find out more about taking out an LPA, go to gov.uk/power-of-attorney.
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