Questions of Cash: July 2015

Posted on August 4, 2015 · Posted in The Independent

Q.  My wife and I travelled by train from Burnley to Newcastle, via York, in March.  It was a Saturday night and at Burnley the platform was awash with people after a football match between Burnley and Manchester City.  A policeman warned the journey would be unpleasant because Northern Rail had not provided bigger trains on match days, despite  It was a two car unit and people pushed and shoved to get on the train, which left many people on the platform, including us.  The waiting room was closed and we waited an hour and a half in the cold for the next train.  We arrived in York just before midnight and missed our connection to Newcastle.  We had to find a hotel in York, paying £119 for the room, plus £55 for new single tickets on the Sunday.   Northern Rail has declined to compensate us.  JD, Newcastle.

A.  A spokeswoman for Northern Rail responds: “We’d like to apologise for the disruption to [the reader’s] journey back in March. For special events such as football matches, we always look at ways to provide additional carriages but with several Premiership matches happening that weekend, we were unable to strengthen the service….  We have however reviewed [the reader’s] case and will refund the cost of his overnight stay in York, £119.”  Had you spoken to rail station staff at York, it should have been possible to arrange for a taxi to Newcastle at Northern Rail’s expense.  This would have cost about £125 – roughly the same as your accommodation. Our request for a £55 rail voucher for you was declined.

Q.  In July last year I booked accommodation at the St Andrews Tourist Hostel through HostelBookers for six nights to watch this year’s British Open golf tournament.  The agreed price was €17.69 per night – about £14.  In June this year the hostel advised me they had made an error: the incorrect price had been loaded by them into the HostelBooker system and it should have been £70 per night.  The cost had increased from £84 to £420.  I have since been put under pressure to cancel the booking, but we have a legally binding contract.  I have now been offered the same accommodation at £200 – which was then raised to £252.  This is still way beyond the contracted price.  HostelBookers say they simply provide IT support, acting as agents for the Hostel, so have no responsibility for the change.  MC, by email.

A.   Patricia Ali, the hostel’s business manager, says: “Unfortunately this was a case of bad communication.  [The reader] made his booking last year at which point a different manager was employed in the hostel in St Andrews. When he booked with us the wrong prices were in our partner site.  It came to our attention when [the reader] called the hostel a few weeks ago to request some information that his pricing was not correct.  At this point the staff member advised him that his pricing was incorrect and that he would have to pay the correct price to keep his booking….. I am happy to accept that [the reader] booked his accommodation last year and… the manager did not contact him after he made this booking to advise him of the pricing error.  I have apologised to [the reader] for this very unfortunate situation and have assured him that his accommodation is not only guaranteed with us, but there will be no cost to him for his stay as a way of an apology.”  A spokeswoman for HostelBookers adds:  “We have spoken directly to the hostel concerned, who have refunded [the reader] his stay in its en This is very much a one-off, the prices on our site are reflected from the hostels, and we have apologised to [the reader] for the inconvenience and for his experience with this booking.”

Q.  While on holiday in Lanzarote I twisted my knee and went to the local health centre.  I was prescribed a pain killer patch that was applied to my knee.  The charge was €41.73, which was 50 per cent of the standard  The pharmacist said that as I am a pensioner I should only have been paying 10 per cent.  When I went back to the health centre the receptionist told me that to recover the difference I needed to obtain a letter from my pension office at home confirming that I am a pensioner in the UK.  I would have thought I would just have to produce my passport and EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).  AH, by email.

A. The Department of Health’s spokesman explains: “The EHIC provides cover for treatment in a country’s state healthcare system that becomes necessary during a temporary visit to another EEA country [the EU, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway] or Switzerland until a person’s planned return to their country of residence.  It also provides cover for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, as long as the purpose of a visit is not specifically to seek treatment or to give birth.  The EHIC allows patients to receive this treatment in the same way as a resident of the country they are visiting, which means that if there is a ‘co-payment’ element to that healthcare – for example, residents contribute a certain percentage to the overall cost or pay a statutory charge like a prescription charge – then visitors using an EHIC will also be expected to pay that charge. The UK does not reimburse patients the co-payment element of healthcare received under the EHIC scheme.  If someone has presented their EHIC while on holiday in another EEA country or Switzerland and was subject to charge but feels this was over and above a patient co-payment element, they can contact the Overseas Healthcare Team in the Department for Work and Pensions to see whether any element of that cost can be reclaimed.”  The Overseas Healthcare Team can be contacted by phone on 0191 218 1999, or by email at healthcare@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.