Questions of Cash: July 2014

Posted on September 17, 2014 · Posted in The Independent

Q. I was made redundant in April. As a result I decided to cancel my health insurance policy with BUPA, which was costing me nearly £90 a month. But when I contacted BUPA I was persuaded not to cancel, but instead to reduce cover at a monthly cost of £28.59, with an increased excess of £2,000. It was agreed that the new arrangements would take effect from May, when my next payment was due by direct debit. The revised agreement was subject to a 21 day cooling-off period.  But when the new payment schedule came through this listed my monthly payments as £58.96 from May to August.  I phoned BUPA and was assured that the May payment – due the following day – would be for the £28.59, not the £58.96.  In fact, £50.46 was taken from my account by BUPA.  I phoned BUPA and was promised a refund of £21 “within a couple of weeks”, though I don’t see why it should take so long.  A new payment schedule arrived a few days later, which stated that I would pay £6.72 on 10 June and £28.59 on both 10 July and 10 August.  But then I received a membership certificate dated 17 May, stating that my annual subscription would be £820.12 – this figure bore no relation to any others I had been quoted, nor to my original subscription.  Soon after, I received another membership certificate, quoting this time an annual premium of £731.90, which again bore no relation to any other figures that I had been given.  Since then, all I have received have been standard ‘holding’ letters from BUPA.  I’ve still not had the promised refund and I have had to cancel my direct debit to BUPA as the premiums are higher than I have budgeted for.  HP, by email.

A. BUPA has agreed to arrange a reduced subscription for the rest of your contract. Its spokeswoman says: “We would like to apologise as the level of customer service [the reader] has received does not reflect our usual standards. We recognise that [the reader] was given incorrect information and the wrong amount was deducted from her bank account in May. In recognition of the errors made we have arranged for a refund of £21.87 to be made for May’s payment. In addition, we have waived the payments for June, July and August due to the inconvenience caused and as a gesture of goodwill.”  In its letter to you BUPA says that the membership certificates issued showed the correct subscription costs for the period September 2013 to September 2014, with the second certificate showing lower premiums in line with the agreed revised payment terms.  You tell us that you remain unhappy, you challenge parts of the detailed explanation provided to you by BUPA and are unlikely to renew the contract on expiry.

Q. Somehow two sets of flight tickets were booked by mistake. The flight is from London City airport to Paris Orly and returning. One set of tickets was booked with Air France and the other through the online travel agency, fly.co.uk.  When I contacted Air France, I was told that it was unable to cancel the tickets or process the refund and that the request must come through fly.co.uk. When I spoke to fly.co.uk it told me it was unable to get through to Air France to make the cancellation or request a refund.  Duplicate tickets have been issued.  I realise that I will not obtain the full refund, but I would like a partial refund on one set of tickets. I appreciate that there may well be charges.  AF, by email.

A. We expected this would be a simple matter to resolve – instead it proved very difficult and took two months for us to get a resolution. You have now received a refund of £145.62, which you are very satisfied with – even though it is less than full amount you paid. It is only because Air France has been very helpful and active that any refund was obtained.  The first complication (which you failed to mention to us in your email) was that while one person was named on both sets of the tickets, the second person had the same surname on both sets of tickets, but a different first name.  The second complication was that fly.co.uk failed to respond to any of our repeated enquiries.  Although fly.co.uk uses a UK internet domain name, it is based in Germany.  Air France has informed us that fly.co.uk did not, in fact, purchase the tickets from Air France, but instead did so via another travel agency, STA Travel.  We then contacted STA Travel, which told us: “STA Travel issue the tickets on behalf of Fly, but we are not able to process refunds on their behalf.”  Eventually, Air France received a refund request from fly.co.uk, which unlocked the refund, which was to be paid to you by fly.co.uk.  Unfortunately, that was still not the end of the story.  During the time it took to make progress, the credit card that you had used for the purchase had expired.  After you notified fly.co.uk of the details of a new credit card, the refund was processed and received by you.  Your experience might discourage you from using fly.co.uk in future.  If so, you would not be alone.  An online search using the terms ‘fly.co.uk’ and ‘review’ revealed a significant number of dissatisfied customers.