Questions of Cash: August 2015

Q. I was recently on holiday in Spain when my daughter decided that, instead of returning with us, she would fly to Nice to meet some friends for an additional holiday. I therefore booked a flight on 1 July via eDreams, a web-based travel agency, to depart from Barcelona on 6 July. The agent supplied a booking confirmation and, subsequently, a booking ID, but no e-ticket. When we attempted to download the boarding pass from the airline’s website it did not recognise either of the reference numbers. Surprisingly for an electronic agency, eDreams does not publish a direct email link, but we finally located a telephone number for customer services. When my daughter explained the problem to the eDreams’ representative she was repeatedly told to log into the airline’s website. When we finally got her to understand that this was precisely the problem we were trying to resolve, the representative offered to log in for us for an additional fee. That, however, we established would not resolve the problem as it needed direct, not third party, access. After some discussion I asked the representative to cancel the booking. She agreed to do this for a further additional fee, but when I asked for confirmation that the costs would be refunded, the eDreams representative said this was the responsibility of the airline. But when I explained that my contract of sale was with eDreams, not the airline, the representative hung up. We completed a contact form on eDreams’s website, outlining the situation and requesting confirmation of the cancellation. This was acknowledged with a promise of a detailed response. I then booked my daughter directly with the airline for the flight originally booked with eDreams. The day before departure, I received an email from eDreams which ignored my complaint and cancellation request, acknowledged the delay in responding, and repeated the advice to log into the airline’s website using the booking reference. EDreams has failed to provide the flight ticket, ignored my correspondence, given us an appalling service and we have not had a refund. SM, London.

A. A spokesman for eDreams responds: “We apologise for the difficulties experienced by [the reader] and the delay in processing her refund. She has now been refunded in full. We always do our best to ensure that customers are refunded as fast as possible.”

Q. My mother-in-law died in March last year.  My wife held Enduring Power of Attorney over her mother’s financial affairs and the account used to be in both their names. Between my mother-in-law’s death and now my wife has been diagnosed with a dementia-related illness and I now hold Lasting Power of Attorney over her financial affairs. At the time of my mother-in-law’s death there was an overdrawn balance on the HSBC account which I assumed would be allowed until probate was issued. But last December I received a letter saying we had 18 days to pay the balance on the account or HSBC would commence legal proceedings. To avoid this I decided I would pay off the balance on the account with my own funds.  I called HSBC’s call centre on 9 December last year, providing details of my debit card to clear the balance.  The sum was calculated at £1,112.28 and I understood this would be taken from my bank account, putting an end of the matter. A few days later I called into my local HSBC branch to close the account and obtain a final statement.  I was then told there remained on outstanding overdrawn balance of about £1,000.  The telephone advisor had only taken £112.28 from my debit card.  I then spent 41 minutes on the phone trying to get an operator to take the additional money from me, without any success.  It also emerged that I had been charged additional interest of £1.55 because of the error by the call centre. In the end I went to my own bank and transferred the additional £1,001.55.  I have repeatedly written to and phoned HSBC about the problems we experienced, but without obtaining a satisfactory response.  JB, Norfolk.

A. Not only did you have difficulty in getting this resolved, it also took us several months of repeated requests to get this properly investigated.  Eventually we obtained a response, which you are happy with.  An HSBC spokesman says: “We are very sorry that the handling of [the reader’s] case has caused such inconvenience and distress to him, and we would like to apologise for the totally unacceptable experience in trying to contact us to sort out this important matter. [The reader] has not received the high level of customer service we aim to provide and we are contacting him to apologise, offering him £500 as compensation, and an offer of another £500 as a donation to a charity of his choice. We have been making key changes to the way we support our customers during these difficult situations, including working to simplify our processes, and we will take on board the learnings from this case to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Q. My wife went through the online process back in April to transfer some of her unused personal income tax allowance to me under the new Marriage Allowance.  But the attempt failed as she has no debt or utility bills in her name. A subsequent attempt on an official telephone number resulted in a long wait and a later email brought the reply from HMRC that it would telephone us. That was in May, but we have not heard further.  We do not know if we are registered or not and if we need to apply again.  BS, by email.

A. HM Revenue & Customs told us there was no need to reapply, but you did need to revisit the website to complete the application.  We passed this information to you and you tell us that you managed to do this – after a further two attempts.  You have now received an email acknowledgement of the registration.

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