Questions of Cash: July 2015

Q. Last July I booked accommodation at the St Andrews Tourist Hostel through HostelBookers for six nights to watch this year’s Open in the golf. The price was €14 per night.  In June the hostel said it had made an error: the incorrect price had been loaded into the HostelBookers system and it should have been £70 per night. The cost had increased from £84 to £420. I was put under pressure to cancel the booking, but we had a legally binding contract. I was offered the same accommodation at £200, then £252 – still way beyond the contracted price.  HostelBookers said it simply provides IT support, acting as agent for the hostel, so has no responsibility for the change. MC, by email

A. Patricia Ali, the hostel’s business manager, said: “This was a case of bad communication. [The reader] made his booking last year when a different manager was employed in the hostel. When he booked, the wrong prices were in our partner site. It came to our attention when [the reader] called the hostel.  “At this point the staff member advised him his pricing was incorrect and he’d have to pay the correct price to keep his booking  “I am happy to accept that [the reader] booked his accommodation last year and … the manager did not contact him after he made this booking to advise him of the pricing error. I have apologised to [the reader] for this and have assured him that his accommodation is not only guaranteed with us, but there will be no cost to him for his stay by way of an apology.  A spokeswoman for HostelBookers said: “We have spoken directly to the hostel, who have refunded [the reader] his stay in its entirety. This is a one-off … and we have apologised for the inconvenience.”

Q. My wife and I travelled by train from Burnley to Newcastle, via York, in March on a Saturday night. At Burnley the platform was awash with people after a football match between Burnley and Manchester City. A policeman warned that the journey would be unpleasant because Northern Rail had not provided bigger trains, despite requests  It was a two-car unit and people pushed and shoved to get on the train, which left many people on the platform, including us. The waiting room was closed and we waited an hour and a half in the cold for the next train. We arrived in York just before midnight and missed our connection to Newcastle. We had to find a hotel in York, paying £119 for the room, plus £55 for new tickets on the Sunday. Northern Rail has declined to compensate us. JD, Newcastle.

A. A spokeswoman for Northern Rail said: “We’d like to apologise. For events such as football matches, we try to provide additional carriages – but with several matches that weekend, we were unable to strengthen the service. We have reviewed the case and will refund the cost of the overnight stay in York.  Had you spoken to rail station staff at York, it should have been possible to arrange a taxi to Newcastle at Northern Rail’s expense. It would have cost £125, about the same as the accommodation. Our request for a £55 rail voucher for you was rejected.

Q. While on holiday in Lanzarote I twisted my knee and went to the local health centre. I was prescribed a painkiller patch. The charge was €41.73, 50 per cent off the standard price. The pharmacist said that as I am a pensioner, I should only have been paying 10 per cent.  When I went back to the health centre, the receptionist told me that to recover the difference I had to get a letter from my pension office at home confirming that I am a pensioner in the UK.  I would have thought I would just have to produce my passport and European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). AH, by email.

A. The Department of Health said: “The EHIC provides cover for treatment that becomes necessary during a temporary visit to another EEA country [the EU, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway] or Switzerland until a person’s planned return to their country of residence. It also provides cover for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, as long as the purpose of a visit is not specifically to seek treatment or to give birth.  “The EHIC allows patients to receive this treatment in the same way as a resident of the country they are visiting. This means that if there is a ‘co-payment’ element to that healthcare – for example, residents contribute a percentage to the overall cost or pay a statutory charge like a prescription charge – then visitors using an EHIC will also be expected to pay that charge.  The UK does not reimburse the co-payment element. If someone presented their EHIC while on holiday and was subject to a charge, but feels this was above a co-payment element, they can contact the Overseas Healthcare Team in the Department for Work and Pensions to see whether any element of that cost can be reclaimed.”

The Overseas Healthcare Team can be contacted on 0191 218 1999, or by email at

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