Questions of Cash – September 2013

Posted on October 29, 2013 · Posted in The Independent

Q.  I booked two nights at a hotel in Bruges through Expedia.com as a birthday treat for my girlfriend. I received a confirmation email from Expedia, which stated that I could cancel the booking without penalty any time up to 11.59 on the night before we were due to stay. I became ill just before we were to leave so at 8pm the night before I went onto the Expedia site, cancelling the booking. I received a confirmation email stating that my booking had been successfully cancelled and that I would not be charged. But my credit card statement arrived two weeks later showing that the hotel had charged me £226.63 – the price of one night’s stay. I phoned Expedia, who contacted the hotel – which said it had a 48 hour cancellation policy and this is why I had been charged. I told Expedia’s call centre this had not been mentioned to me, I was then transferred to a supervisor who promised my complaint would be escalated and I would be phoned back within 24 hours.  This did not happen so four days later I phoned again, to be told again that the reason for the charge was the hotel’s 48 hour cancellation notice policy.  I was then told to wait a further 24 hours and I would be phoned back – again this did not happen.  WC, by email.

 

A.  Expedia has investigated and agrees you should not have been charged.  A spokeswoman explains: “[The reader] was mistakenly charged for his cancelled booking due to a change in the hotel’s cancellation policy. The hotel has recently changed ownership and a new cancellation policy has been introduced by the hotel. Under this new policy, [the reader] would no longer have qualified for a penalty-free cancellation.  However, the new policy should not have applied to bookings booked on Expedia before the policy was updated with Expedia. We have now discussed this with the hotel management who have agreed to offer a full refund. We are working with the hotel to ensure that all bookings made prior to the change in policy on Expedia are handled in line with the previous cancellation policy.”  As well as receiving a full refund from the hotel, you will receive an Expedia voucher for £25.

 

Q.  I am a basic rate taxpayer, but I received a trivial lump sum pension payment last December that was taxed at 32.2 per cent, instead of 20 per cent.  My claim to HMRC for a tax repayment was rejected on the basis that my last employer, Capita, has failed to provide a P45 [the certificate of pay and tax deducted].  I phoned Capita which said it had an agreement with HMRC that it was not responsible for providing forms P45 and P60.  Capita promised me it would send me a letter confirming this, but I have not received it.  IB, by email.
A.  You were given the wrong information by Capita.  A spokeswoman for Capita explains: “Capita does issue P45s in these circumstances. [The reader’s] P45 should have been issued automatically and we have since produced one manually and sent it to her along with a letter of apology for the poor standard of service received.”  You confirm that you have received this by special delivery and expect to now receive the tax refund from HMRC.

 

Q.  I found pedigree Maine Coone cats available on the Dodo.ie website that were being given away to a good home.  I responded and received emails from the person giving them away, who lives in County Mayo, which was near enough for me to meet the person, check the kittens were ok and collect them.  At the last minute, the person said that because of family circumstances she had to go to the Isle of Man, so would have to ship the kittens to us from there, but would only charge the shipping costs and for the pedigree certification.  This would be over £200 and seemed odd.  I looked up the person, Dora Antoinette, on the internet and found that she had a Facebook page.  The same face on the Facebook page appeared on her emails, so things looked ok.  But I then did another online search and found that the photos of the kittens in the advertisement had been lifted from a website about Main Coone cats.  Is this a scam?  ZW, Northern Ireland.

 

A.  Yes, it is a variation of what is called the ‘advance fee fraud’.  A person is persuaded by an apparently plausible explanation to pay for something in advance, but the product or service – in this case the kittens – never arrives.  What is especially worrying in this instance is that the person supposedly giving the kittens away had opened a Facebook page to provide apparent verification of their identity.  However, close examination of the photos on the Facebook page suggest that the person whose photos are on the site – which were presumably downloaded from an innocent Facebook page – were taken in South Africa, not County Mayo.  We raised this with Facebook, which has closed down the site for a breach of its rules.  Facebook declines to state which rule was broken, but its rules ban the use of false identities or “improper use of personal information”.  We believe both rules were breached in this instance.  We did some further online searches and found that the email address used – evernice75@hotmail.com – was the subject of allegations of previous attempts at advance fee fraud regarding the sale and shipping of animals, including monkeys.  It is alleged that these frauds are being co-ordinated from the Cameroons.  However, the person who used this email address and Facebook page denies any wrongdoing and insists the offer to you was genuine.  We have inspected the Dodo.ie website and found vast numbers advertisements for pets that used different seller locations, but identical descriptions and photos.  We made several attempts to obtain a comment from Dodo.ie, but it failed to respond to our enquiries.  You avoided being conned and other readers are warned.