Questions of Cash: April 2015

Q  I booked flights to the Isle of Man and back with Flybe in June last year for work, but the job was cancelled so there was no point going.  The ticket says no refunds, but I am sure that I read somewhere that it is possible to get a refund on the tax element of the ticket. Is this true? And if so, how would I go about doing it?  I booked direct with Flybe.  I enquired about a refund on the tax, but although I had a response saying I would receive a reply within 28 days, I heard nothing more.  SM, Southampton.

A  You are indeed entitled to a refund of the tax element of an airline ticket where you do not use the flight.  Airlines, though, can opt to levy an administration charge – which in some cases can be more than the value of the tax – which is called the Air Passenger Duty, or APD.  In the case of Flybe, it levies an administration charge of £25 per flight, which is less than the APD you paid on your flights.  You are therefore due a refund of £29.88.  A spokeswoman for Flybe says: “Flybe can confirm that it has today actioned the refund due to [the reader].  Flybe would like to apologise for the delay, which was a result of not initially having the full details required to process the claim sooner.”  A week later, you told us that you had still not received the refund, but we assume this is on its way.

Q My mum and her husband, who has since died, took out an equity release loan of £30,000 in 2002.  She now wants to move to a retirement flat and asked about paying-off the loan. The amount she now owes is £85,000, plus an early payment fee. Can those figures really be right?  SG, by email.

A Danny Cox of advisers Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “This is the issue with equity release, investors must understand they are spending their bricks and mortar and these arrangements are rarely as flexible as they first appear.  The loan now being £85,000 looks about right based on an interest rate of around 7 per cent per annum, but it shows how expensive equity release / lifetime mortgages are compared to normal mortgages.  House prices have risen over the last 13 years at an average of 5.2 per cent since the start of 2002 based on the Halifax House Price Index, so, depending upon where the property is, the loan to value could well have increased over this period, proportionately reducing the amount of equity.  It is worth a negotiation with the lender to see if the costs can be waived or reduced.”

Q   I have a problem with Boots’ online service.  I ordered several fragrance products as gifts for Christmas and whilst recently checking through my invoices I noticed that in addition to my invoice they had sent me one pertaining to a customer in Bristol.  The information included his address and his payment type. I believe my information was sent to this customer as we had both purchased the same product.  I telephoned the call centre and asked to be called back with an explanation and apology, but I did not receive any response from Boots.  I am concerned that Boots are being very cavalier with customers’ data.  How do I know that my details are not being shared with less honest customers of Boots?  LI, by email.

A   A Boots spokesman responds: “At Boots UK, we take a very serious approach to data protection and actively work to ensure customer information is kept private. We closely monitor all orders to ensure accuracy and were disappointed to learn about the mix-up relating to this particular order.  We conducted a thorough investigation immediately to understand what happened and we can confirm it to be an isolated incident.”  However, it seems to us that you are right to be concerned.


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