Questions of Cash: The Independent

Posted on October 1, 2011 · Posted in The Independent

Q. I was a customer with Barclays for several years, but closed all my accounts in spring 2008 – I thought. I was badly injured in the London 7/7 bombings and received compensation for my injuries. On one occasions I went to the bank with a compensation cheque, the woman at the counter was very rude and quizzed me as to ‘where I got this money’ and ‘what was it for’, as if I was a drug dealer. This was despite the cheque clearly stating ‘London Bombing Charity Relief Fund’. So I closed my account. Then in mid 2009, I received a phone call saying I was overdrawn and that I was jeopardizing my credit history. Barclays checked and discovered that a standing order used to transfer money from my current account into my savings account had been left active, even though there was no money in the accounts. As a result, fees of over £600 had accumulated. I thought that Barclays’ call handler had eventually understood the situation and rectified it. But a year later, I got the same calls again. I was then told to go into a Barclays’ branch to ensure that the accounts had been properly closed. This I did, where I had to explain the situation, the clerk agreed that Barclays had made a mistake and I was promised that a letter of apology would be sent to me – which I never received. Now I have received calls from RMA debt collectors, telling me that they are in ownership of the debt and seeking to collect it. RMA says it needs a letter from Barclays to clear the account before it can cease collection action. This is apparently affecting my credit rating and I am stressed by the situation. WW, London.

A Your ‘debt’ reached £725.04, when collectors contacted you. Although the standing orders had eventually been cancelled and the value of the transfers removed from your accounts, an administrative oversight meant that a charge of just £3.01 was left outstanding. Subsequently, account charges, fees and interest accumulated so that the balance escalated to a shocking £725.04. This is a disturbing example of the way that small charges can build-up into substantial debts. Not surprisingly, an investigation by Barclays has upheld your complaint and the bank apologises. It has cleared the balance on the account and corrected your credit file. We hope that Barclays is suitably embarrassed.

Q. My wife and I visited Paris for four days in August, flying with Air France. When I arrived, our baggage had gone missing – along with that of another 30 or 40 passengers. We reported the problem to Air France, which reassured us the bags would be found and delivered promptly to our hotel. The bag arrived two and a half days later, just before we returned home. When we reported the bag lost, Air France said we could spend €200 on necessary items until the bag was found. It gave us a pre-addressed envelope to send a covering letter and receipts after we returned home. We posted this the day after we arrived home, but when we chased this up we were told Air France had no record of receiving the claim and that we were now out of the 21 day period for making a claim. DP, Sussex.

A We have had several complaints in recent months about lost bags on flights via Air France and its subsidiary KLM, and on journeys that began on their flights. Happily, your bags were only delayed, not lost. Unhappily, Air France continues to refuse to meet the costs of the items you replaced. It quotes the Montreal Convention, which determines the compensation that airlines are required to pay when bags are lost, or flights cancelled or delayed. As your original letter with receipts was apparently lost in the post, Air France declines to provide any recompense for your out of pocket expenses. You, and other readers, are warned to send any such claims by recorded delivery.

Q. My family are keen cyclists and we travelled to Torquay, taking three bikes on a cycle carrier bought from Halfords. We have used the same type of carrier before and used it correctly, with additional padding. While we were driving, the cycle carrier failed, when a bolt sheared. This caused serious damage to all three bikes. We took the bikes to a Halfords store, which agreed that the carrier had failed and gave us a full refund for the cost of the carrier. On our return home, we requested compensation as well for the damage to the bikes. We emailed Halfords, but got no reply at first. When we did obtain a reply, we were told to get two quotes for the cost of repair, which we obtained and provided to Halfords – a total repair cost of £2,199.97. When we did not receive a response, we followed this up and were told that the letter had not been received. Then we were told that the carrier had been destroyed because of the long time lapse involved, so it was not possible to do any tests on it. We have been sent a cheque for £500 in the interests of ‘good customer service’, with a letter explaining that the local store states the damage to the bikes is only cosmetic. But our local store has not seen the bikes, so cannot reach this conclusion. We cannot ride the damaged bikes. RR, Doncaster.

A Halfords has offered to have your bikes checked again for a further opinion on the level of damage. This offer was rejected by you, on the grounds that you could not transport the bikes to a Halfords store. Halfords has now agreed to collect the bikes from your home, to enable an in-store assessment to be carried out. Its spokeswoman promises the company will “ensure a fair outcome”.