Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  I booked a return flight through Travelocity to Stockholm for my wife and myself in March.  The flight was cancelled because of the volcanic ash.  Travelocity initially said it might take 12 to 16 weeks to refund.  Despite reminders I have not had my refund.  CB, Brighton.


A.  Travelocity has now processed the refund and sent you £212.06.  A spokeswoman for Travelocity says:  “We’re sorry this customer’s travel was inconvenienced by the ash cloud. As part of our commitment to our customers and helping with their inconvenience, we have been liaising with suppliers to facilitate refunds on their behalf.” 


Q.  I am 66 and had a successful heart bypass operation four years ago.  My wife is 77 and 20 years ago had treatment which effectively knocked out her thyroid gland, which had been over-active.  We are both on prescribed medication.  We frequently visit Europe, but never take out travel insurance, relying instead on our E110 cards. This year we will fly to Spain, booking via a travel agent. The agent quoted me for travel insurance for our 10 day holiday at £77.62. When I notified them of our medical history this leapt to £246, which I consider unreasonable. Is it really necessary to have travel insurance? If so, can you suggest how I can cut the cost?  PW, by email.


A.  The E111 (not E110, which is a food additive) has been replaced by the EHIC, European Health Insurance Card.  While it is important to have an EHIC on visits to other countries within the EU, this is not a substitute for also taking out health insurance.  The EHIC should enable you to have free or low cost medical care in other EU states.  But a person who falls seriously ill (or who dies) and needs to be returned to the UK via air ambulance will be charged for this and the costs can be very substantial.  Travel insurance also provides cover for theft of valuables and limited compensation for flight delays and cancellations.  There are several specialist health insurers who provide cover for people with impaired health histories: these include AllClearPlus (, Free Spirit ( and It’s So Easy Travel Insurance (  Since contacting us, you have taken out an annual travel insurance policy with Nationwide for £35 – but this excludes cover for illness or death relating to your past health conditions and consequently cannot be regarded as providing adequate cover. 

Q.  I have spent five months fighting with TalkTalk. In March TalkTalk told me how to get my phone line re-established, which was interrupted against my wishes in January.  TalkTalk told me the problem was with BT.  I reluctantly agreed with TalkTalk to order a new phone and broadband line, but was promised that the reinstated line would be provided free of charges and on the same terms as I was on previously.  But I have been charged installation fees as if I was a new customer and the terms are not the same as before.  OL, Brighton. 


A.  TalkTalk apologises for the problems.  It has cleared the charges on your account and has offered you a discount on your future charges, which you have accepted.


Q.  I was phoned by TalkTalk in February 2009 and I agreed that I would pay £36.00 a month to continue its service for another six months.  This was the price I had signed up for in a CarphoneWarehouse shop.  I was given an absolute promise that all overpayments would be repaid to me by September 2009.  If repayments were missed then my agreement would be terminated on that date and would therefore stop completely at the end of 2009. The operative gave me a phone number to call in September to confirm arrangements, but when I phoned I was passed around various operatives.  I was told there was a note on my file confirming the arrangements, but no one I spoke to had the authority to act on this.  Since then I have been threatened with legal action and now I have received a letter from a debt collector – yet it is CarphoneWarehouse that owes me £1,447.14.  TG, Buckinghamshire.


A.  CarphoneWarehouse says it is “confident” that you are “not being overcharged and not owed any credit”.  It says that in 2009 you upgraded your O2 mobile service, for which you paid £35.23 a month.  However, it alleges that you repeatedly exceeded your inclusive call allowance, incurring charges of about £30 a month.  But it was unable to adjust your direct debit to recover these charges under the terms of the contract.  CPW’s internal investigation concluded that you were aware of the products, services and costs you signed-up for.  As you have now cancelled the service, CPW insists that you have breached the terms of your contract and it is now demanding £201.84, representing the balance on your account of £126.83, plus a cessation fee of £75.01.  We have now exhausted our ability to act on your behalf with CPW.  As you remain unhappy with the outcome we suggest you take your case to the telephone ombudsman service – both O2 and TalkTalk (the telephone operator previously part of CPW) are members of the Otelo scheme.  Its contact details are listed on its website, 

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