Questions of Cash: Bank blames airline, airline blames bank: The Independent


Q. I bought air tickets on KLM’s website, using my Barclays’ debit card. But a different amount was taken from my account than was shown as the value of the transaction. This led to my account being noted as having a transaction pending of £1,000 – preventing me withdrawing funds from the account. I had to spend a week without money. Barclays told me that the transaction authorised by KLM was done by signature – which isn’t true, since I bought the tickets by internet – and that the transaction was fraudulently authorised. I don’t understand who is responsible for this. AC, by email.


A. Neither do we. KLM blames Barclays, while Barclays blames KLM. KLM’s spokewoman says that it is common practice for airlines to seek authorisation for the total value of several tickets being purchased simultaneously, while actually processing each ticket separately. But, says KLM, Barclays failed to reconcile the total value authorised with the composite amounts that were actually processed as transactions. As a result, you were prevented from accessing the money that was sitting in your account. KLM says that where this does happen “usually the double block is released within days”, but was apparently not in your case. Barclays, though, says that the problem was caused by the way KLM handled the transaction, that this is “a rare occurrence” and that in “almost 99 per cent” of cases, transactions such as these are correctly matched up. However, a more than one in a hundred failure rate seems to us unacceptable and we have received several complaints of a similar nature in which banks have failed to reconcile transactions accurately. Barclays also says that it has no record of you contacting it seeking to resolve the matter and that it had sorted out the problem before our involvement. But, as a goodwill gesture, it has sent you two bottles of Paul Bocuse Cuvee wine – one white and one red. KLM sends you only its “regrets”.


Q. I have a never-ending problem with Tiscali. My account with Tiscali was closed on 15 February, after which Tiscali refunded a processed direct debit payment in error. Now Tiscali has sent me a bill of for £8.50 as a cancellation adjustment. I am now worried that Tiscali is going to start taking direct debit payments again. SC, Tring.


A. Following your initial email to us, you sent several more saying that Tiscali was, indeed, continuing to take payments from your account and had failed to refund overpayments. Tiscali accepts that it made errors in closing your account. It says that the problem originated because it had already processed the following month’s payment when the account was closed, leading to an additional and incorrect invoice. All charges taken incorrectly have now been refunded and, we have been assured, the account has now been properly closed.

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