Questions of Cash – April 2016

Q. I hired a car from Europcar in September last year to travel from Penzance to Cardiff.  The clutch failed about 25 miles from home at 7am on a Sunday morning.  My wife picked me up and the AA recovered the car for delivery to the Europcar office in Penzance.  Two days later Europcar charged my credit card £1,000 with an ‘accident’ excess.  I contacted my credit card provider, which treated the transaction as disputed.  Europcar did not respond to this, but maintains that I am responsible for the breakdown and has sent me a final demand for payment.  I cannot accept as a driver of more than 50 years that I could be responsible for burning out a clutch in less than 50 miles of driving.  AC, Penzance.

A. Europcar is not for turning.  Its spokeswoman says: “The company provides its customers with 24-hour emergency road side assistance in the event of a breakdown or accident and the number to call is clearly noted on the rental agreement.   [The reader] decided to use his own breakdown company, which contravenes the terms and conditions of his rental.  Following [the reader’s] complaint regarding the charge for clutch damage, an independent technical investigation was undertaken.  The engineer’s report confirmed that the damage to the clutch was caused by poor driver technique and not due to a manufacturing defect or sudden failure.   The charges for car hire, including the charges for the damage to the clutch, have therefore been upheld.”  There is an appeal process, which we suggest you use.  You can do this by contacting Europcar’s trade body, the BVRLA.  Details of the arrangements are online at


Q. My wife has a Hotpoint washing machine protection plan with Domestic & General, which is paid monthly by direct debit.  After a series of call-outs in 2014, D&G promised that the next time there was problem it would provide a new machine.  Last year there was another problem, but D&G said there would be a delay in supply, so my wife accepted instead another repair.  The machine has now gone wrong again.  I was promised a replacement – in black, to fit in with our other appliances.  I have phoned several times since and I was told the records of my previous calls have been lost.  Now the machine has been delivered, but it is grey.  I have complained, but I have not heard anything more.  SJ, by email.

A. Domestic & General apologises.  It has now replaced the grey model with the requested black Hotpoint washing machine.

Q. In November 2010 our son took out a contract with O2.   Within a few days he realised this was not suitable as he was moving to France to live and work. He was told in the 02 shop that he couldn’t cancel the contract – this was within 10 days of starting it – but that if he found someone else to take the contract over it could be transferred to them. This he arranged, providing the name, address and bank account details. My son then left for France. In July 2014 a letter from Lowell debt collectors arrived demanding £627.74. It transpired that this was for the early termination and usage of the transferred 02 contract.  Our son should have been able to cancel the contract when he first requested it, as this was within the cooling-off period.  He was clearly told that the contract could be transferred to another person.  At no time was he told that it was not possible and that my son would remain responsible for the debt. JS, by email.

A. We have discussed this with O2.  Although your son’s contract was for an O2 service, it was arranged through a Phones4U shop and that company is no longer trading.  O2 says that on this basis, only Phones4U could cancel or change the contract – which it did not do.  O2 adds that in 2010 there was no facility for customers to pass a contract to another person.  It also says that after your son transferred his contract to another person, only one payment was made.  According to O2, your son remains responsible for the debt on that contract.  The cooling-off period to which you refer does not apply under statute to transactions conducted in a shop.  If Phones4U operated its own cooling-off arrangement this would not be binding on O2.  Your options are therefore to apply to the Phones4U administrators citing the failure to apply a cooling-off period; for your son or yourselves to pay the bill; to take legal action against the person who took over the use of the phone; or to request the phone ombudsman to review the decision by O2.

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