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I have a young child in a nursery (kindergarten) in England which is run by a national childcare provider, and they are supposed to be taking monthly payments via Direct Debit.

However, as far as I can tell no Direct Debit payments have ever been taken for the time my child has been there.

I’ve spoken with the individual nursery manager a number of times and they’ve repeatedly told me our account is up to date, but I don’t think that’s correct and I believe we owe a significant amount of back payments in the order of a few thousand pounds.

We haven’t received any invoices, but I’ve been setting aside an estimated amount of money each month in a separate bank account in case they realise there’s been an error and come knocking for the full amount, but it’s kind of burning a hole in my pocket just sitting there.

Ideally they’d send me an invoice for the back-payments to date so I don’t have to maintain the separate account (and I’m going to pursue that avenue for a while longer), but ultimately if they don’t think I owe them anything I’d like to be able to use that money myself rather than leave it accumulating each month.

My questions are:

  1. What is the extent of my obligation to inform them if I think they’ve undercharged for services? Should I write to them to confirm our previous phone conversations?

  2. As a preferred option, I’d like to pay any outstanding fees for the childcare services we’ve received, but if they continue to insist our account is up to date is there any sort of limitation on how long they have to identify any mistakes and request back-payments?

  3. If there is no default limitation, is there any letter / notice I can send to give them X days to request any back-payments or forfeit the right to claim them so that I can eventually stop ring-fencing the estimated funds in my personal banks accounts?

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  • On a practical level, you might have more luck talking to their central billing office, rather than a local manager. You could ask for a statement of your account, for instance; that might help reveal if they're failing to charge for the services, or debiting a different bank account than you expected, or crediting someone else's payments, or what. – Nate Eldredge Apr 7 at 23:21
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    Two questions: 1. Are you aware that you can get 30 hours a week free for each child for childcare with an approved provider from the government (criteria apply here)? gov.uk/30-hours-free-childcare. and 2. Are you sure you dont get a "Tax-Free Childcare" allowance on top of the 30 hours free? gov.uk/tax-free-childcare – Moo Apr 7 at 23:58
  • @moo - our child is younger than 3 so we don’t qualify for (1) yet, and (2) helps, but it doesn’t go very far toward the cost :-S. – MikeC Apr 8 at 6:30
  • @nate eldredge - that was going to be my next step to escalate things, but I was just trying to get an idea of where I stood if that failed as well... – MikeC Apr 8 at 6:31
  • @ the drive-by down-voter - can you leave a comment about how I can improve the question, or why you’ve downvoted? Thanks, m. – MikeC Apr 8 at 6:33

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