ASK TONY: Why won’t our airline pay for ruining the end of our cruise?

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Marooned: A couple


At the end of a river cruise in France this May, we were informed that the flight we were booked on with KLM had been cancelled and replaced with an Air France one the following day.

We had to leave our ship and book into a hotel near Marseille airport for the night, but were told we would receive compensation.

We phoned Air France and were told to write and provide original documents regarding flights, accommodation and meals. We sent these to its headquarters in Paris on May 11 at a cost of £9.95.

The documents were acknowledged, but we were told the claim would not be dealt with in the firm’s usual timeframe. We have heard nothing since.

We are two retired couples who are out of pocket by £210.10 in our case and £187 in our friends’ case.

F. P., Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Marooned: A couple's dream cruise was rudely knocked off course when KLM cancelled their flight home 

Marooned: A couple’s dream cruise was rudely knocked off course when KLM cancelled their flight home 

One potential error leapt out from your letter. Why did you apply to Air France for the money when it was KLM which cancelled your flight?

They are both part of the same group, but I suspect it would have made things much simpler had you applied directly to KLM for compensation.

However, if Air France in Paris felt it was not its responsibility to deal with your problem, then it should have been a simple matter for the airline to suggest you make contact with KLM.

If Air France was happy to deal with it, the firm should have done so, or arranged to pass the documentation along to KLM.

The attitude I received from KLM’s press office was in complete contrast to the way you had been shrugged off by Air France in Paris.

KLM sprang into action, sorting out the issue in a couple of days.

Its press office provided a statement from Air France, apologising for your experience.

‘Our team have investigated the case and we have now offered Mr P. and his companions compensation of ¤250 (£219) per person, in addition to the full reimbursement of hotel charges.

‘We hope this is a satisfying resolution.’ Very satisfying, thank you. If you want bureaucracy, go to the French; if you want efficiency, try the Dutch.

You have YOUR say 

Every week, Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. 

Here are some from our article about fraudsters calling and texting victims from numbers that appear to belong to their banks:  

The banks themselves are to blame. They are constantly closing branches and cash machines, forcing customers into the Wild West of the internet. If we all stopped using online banking, they’d be forced to act on this kind of fraud.

F. G., Maidstone, Kent.

A year ago, I received a text from my bank which I suspected was a scam. It asked me to call due to suspected fraudulent activity. 

I felt it was odd, but I did phone the number and it was my bank. I don’t know what I would do if the same thing happened again.

P. P., Newport.

Remember cheque books and £50 cheque cards? Not so long ago you could actually visit your branch and speak to a real bank manager. 

There’s certainly something to be said for the old ways of doing things.

S. M., Ely, Cambs.

I have a hard-and-fast rule: never reply to, or comply with, any texts, calls, or emails from your bank directly. Just take the time to contact it yourself. If the message is genuine, it will be understanding of the fact you want to be cautious.

L.U., Guildford, Surrey.

Fraudsters targeted my mother last month. A call came in from a number which looked like it belonged to her bank. 

They took £26,000 just like that. Fortunately, the cash had been transferred to another account with the same bank, but she had a week of hell waiting.

T. S., Wakefield, W. Yorks.

My bank doesn’t have any branches, it’s telephone banking only. I’ve never received a call from it, but if I did, I’d say I would call back. 

Then I would phone from a different line. If it was a genuine call, the bank would have notes on its system to say someone had called you.

L. W., Glasgow.

My 85-year-old friend has had a Sky account for 11 or 12 years, paying by direct debit. She has no savings and struggles on the state pension with a bank overdraft.

Last year, she stopped most of her channels but kept sport. 

However, about a week ago, with debts piling up, she phoned to close the account entirely and was told she was under contract until next February.

She says she did not sign a contract. Can you help?

J. A., Glenrothes.

When your friend downgraded her TV subscription last August, the adviser told her that the change would activate a new 18‑month minimum term.

Sky says a letter was sent out outlining the changes. It also says it tried to phone on three occasions to check she was happy, but could not get through — perhaps she has some form of call minder system or, like me, ignores numbers she does not recognise.

Your friend phoned again in May this year to close the account, which was when she was told about the minimum term again.

I feel this letter highlights one of the issues with these 18-month minimum terms. Surely downgrading your subscription is a sign you are trying to cut costs and should not automatically trigger a new contract, especially in the case of elderly people whose circumstances can change in a relatively short time.

Sky says that while it feels there was no fault or error in its engagement with your friend, it is open to individual requests when there are extenuating circumstances.

It has, therefore, spoken to your friend and removed the minimum term and balance owing on her account as a gesture of goodwill and will close her account.

A spokesman says: ‘At Sky we take every customer issue seriously and we always try to give our customers the best possible experience. Having heard about this lady’s extenuating circumstances, we have contacted her and, as a gesture of goodwill, we have removed the remaining term on balance from her account.’

Straight to the point 

My five-year interest-free Help to Buy government loan is coming to an end. Who should I call for advice?

S. B., by email.

If you want to speak to government Help to Buy representatives in England, call 0345 848 0235. 

In Wales, the number is 08000 937 937. For Scottish Help to Buy homeowners, it depends where you live. 

For the Highlands and Shetland Islands, it’s 01463 701 271; for Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray it’s 01224 202900; and anywhere else it’s 08450 020 163.

*** 

When I signed up for a Solarplicity energy deal in February, the offer stated I was entitled to free LED light bulbs. Despite emailing the firm’s customer services 17 times, I haven’t been sent any.

G. K., by email.

Your order was not processed because you tried to order 20 light bulbs when you were entitled to only eight. Solarplicity admits it should have corrected your order. Your new bulbs should be delivered within ten working days.

*** 

I received a letter from insurer Hastings Direct informing me I was owed a refund due to a miscalculation of my no-claims discount. 

I had to confirm the refund through a link, but I don’t have a computer. When I rang, it said it had no record of the refund. Is this a scam?

R. T., Dyfed, Wales.

Hastings Direct confirmed to me that your refund is legitimate. You had nine years of no claims, not eight as it had recorded, and so should have paid £23.67 less for your insurance. 

It says a system error held up the issue of your cheque. A spokesman says: ‘We’ve apologised and issued the refund; we have also paid £30 in compensation for the inconvenience caused.’

*** 

I won a trip to the London Science Museum in June after entering a Mr Kipling prize draw.

 I entered the winning code on its website and it emailed me confirmation I had won. But the firm refuses to give me the prize.

M. S., by email.

To claim your prize you must provide proof of purchase. Mr Kipling asks entrants to keep hold of their cake packaging and receipt to validate entries. 

You say you sent the packaging, but Mr Kipling says it never received it. 

It adds that it must insist on proof of purchase because it received around 80 entries from your email address using similar codes, many of which do not match up to those it randomly generates.

My late mother-in-law had accounts for her grandchildren, including my son, with Cheshire Building Society, which was taken over by Nationwide.

My son has tried to access his account without success.

Nationwide says it is closed, but we have the book, a copy of which I have enclosed.

S. A., Preston, Lancs.

A recurring theme in my postbag is old passbook accounts. People often stumble across one that appears to have cash in it. 

But I’d say nine times out of ten this is not the case. So I was not surprised when Nationwide’s search came up with nothing.

There are no records for your son or this account. This means it was closed prior to the merger, says Nationwide.

The difficulty with old passbook accounts is that they can show a balance even when all the money has been withdrawn.

This may be because it has been converted to another account, the cash has been transferred to a higher-paying account, or the account has been closed — none of which requires the passbook to be shown or updated.

 



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