Questions of Cash: March 2015

Posted on August 4, 2015 · Posted in The Independent

Q. We had a serious water leak at 3am, with a burst pipe in the bathroom and water running everywhere, including through ceilings.  We called out London Emergency Plumbers, on 0333 259 6258, which is based in Bedford.  The company required our credit card details upfront before calling round.  We have been charged £1,139 for a visit of one hour and ten minutes.  I tried to dispute the high fees with the company, but the main said that everything is automated and all dealt with by head office. He said that we would need to ring the managers to discuss this, but they never seem to be there.  The leak seems to be now fixed, but I’m not happy about the high rates.  CT, London.

A.  Questions of Cash has featured London Emergency Plumbers before (see Questions of Cash, 12 July 2014 and 18 May 2013) and we have warned against their business practices.  We had hoped they had ceased trading: sadly they have not.  Two years ago a reader was charged £1,040 for a simple call out and last year a reader was charged £132 for requesting a call-out – but cancelling it ten minutes later.   When on this occasion we called the 0333 number, it rang as unobtainable.  We did manage to contact the company instead on a website advertised 0845 number.  We were told that no manager was available to talk to us and although we asked to be phoned back, our call was not returned.  We tried on a further two occasions and both times the call went to a voicemail message saying that no one could take the call or accept messages.  The website contains a warning notice that the company is subject to an enforcement order, granted 18 months ago by Luton County Court.  This should be sufficient warning for potential clients – but, understandably, customers do not read all the details on a website at 3 in the morning with water pouring through their ceiling.  We do not believe that the charges imposed by London Emergency Plumbers are fair or reasonable and we would urge readers not to use this company.  Your bill was paid by your wife and we contacted her credit card issuer, Halifax.  A spokeswoman for Halifax said: “We were able to resolve this fairly quickly as [the reader] sent the relevant documents through and our disputes team were able to offer a refund of £489.19, under section 75, which was accepted by [the reader].”  While this is better than it might have been, it still means that you and your wife paid £649.87 for a short call-out from a plumber.  That is painfully expensive by any reasonable standard.

Q  I regularly use Air Europa to send my children from London to Madrid, with assisted travel.  They were booked to go on 17 December 2014, however on 15 December I was in the High Court in London, as my children have accused their mother, who lives in Madrid, of hitting my youngest son. It was agreed in court that I accompany my children to Madrid, and that either I, or an agreed third party, be present with them at all times. However their mother did not follow through on this agreement, so in the end the kids did not travel to Spain.  Air Europa says there is no refund available, leaving me with a loss of £430.  Although I understand that my situation may fall outside of their rules, I believe this is a situation that warrants a refund.  AN, London.

A.  Air Europa is not prepared to exercise discretion in refunding the costs of the flight.  A spokesman says: “We sympathise with [the reader’s] difficult personal situation, but unfortunately the tickets he purchased were non-refundable as highlighted in the terms and conditions that [the reader] agreed to at the time of confirming his reservation.  The non-refundable ticket conditions apply to our lower fare structures.”  We noticed that nothing was said about repaying the Air Passenger Duty, which was included in the ticket price.  Air Europa then confirmed that you are entitled to a refund of this and that the airline – unlike some of its competitors – does not impose an administration charge for handling the refund.  You need to contact your ticket seller to apply for the refund of the Air Passenger Duty.