Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. I have been contacted by Santander regarding my investments.  In November 2009, I invested in three property and stockmarket Guaranteed Growth Plans for a fixed term of five and a half years.   I was told when I took them out that Santander was covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.  I have now been informed that this type of fixed term investments is no longer covered by the FSCS.  Apparently this is the result of a change in government policy. I have been given the option of taking my money out, because of these changes.  I have also been contacted by the Yorkshire Building Society to explain that my savings with them, also in a fixed term bond, are still covered. I am wondering whether to move my investments. JP, Abergavenny

A Santander explains: “As part of the FSA’s review into structured investment products [published in October 2009], it was identified that the explanation of Financial Services Compensation Scheme cover for those products was a potential issue across the industry.  Santander reviewed and clarified the likely extent of FSCS cover in documentation for these products from January 2010. Santander has pro-actively written to customers who took structured investment products with us after the onset of the financial crisis to clarify the extent of the FSCS and how it relates to their investment. We provided these customers with the same information as is now in the current standard documentation. Santander has taken the action it feels is appropriate to ensure our customers understand what cover they have.  It is up to other providers of these products to decide whether they feel they need to change their wording, or indeed contact customers who took out structured products with them since the onset of the credit crunch. Santander UK plc is a large and well capitalised bank, with a variety of funding sources and a prudent approach to risk.   The current ratings for Santander UK plc from the three main ratings agencies indicate that in their opinion it is a secure company.” Santander customers can obtain further information on its special helpline number, 0845 600 3570.

Q. In August last year I booked a Superbreak cruise, which involved a stay in Bruges for five adults, for my 60th birthday celebrations.  I was due to depart on 18 February this year, but I was notified on 15 February by Superbreak that the holiday was cancelled because there had been a fire on board the P&O ferry. I tried to rebook the same day, but nothing was available on the preferred dates. In the end I decided to rebook the holiday in March and was surprised to find that I was going to be charged £300 more.  I was expecting compensation for such a late cancellation not an increase in the charges. To make it worse, I checked the P&O update web page and found the ferry had sailed as normal. All I want is my holiday, including the hotel, at the original price, but all I have been offered is £20 off another holiday. I complained to Superbreak, but my complaint was rejected. MR, Worksop.

A Ian Mounser, Superbreak‘s sales director says: “[The reader] is now rebooked at the original hotel at the original price. The cancellation was based on information given by P&O. Subsequently it seems that she could have travelled as arranged.“ Superbreak apologises.

Q. I have just booked flights for my husband and myself to visit Malta in September, travelling via Air Malta. I authorised payment by Barclaycard, but just before I clicked for the final authorisation of payment I realised I had not included luggage. I went back to include the luggage, found there was no extra charge for this, checked the dates were still ok and then approved the payment. But afterwards I realised the final payment was less than I had expected, checked the details again and found that the flight dates had defaulted back to the cheapest options. These would involve us flying very early in the morning, which was not acceptable and not what we thought we were buying. I asked Barclaycard the cancel the transaction, but it said authorisation for this could only come from Air Malta. When I spoke to Air Malta, it agreed to amend the dates, but said this would cost an additional €130 (£115), plus taxes. To make things worse, I had to pay 50 pence per minute for a 17 minute international phone call to speak to the company. I have now booked the correct flights through ebookers, but I am stuck with the original and useless tickets at the cost of £216.82. DG, Brighton.

A Air Malta has conducted a detailed investigation into the problems you encountered. It agrees that when you clicked the ‘back’ button during the booking process, some of the booking parameters were reset to default positions. However, Air Malta says the booking process does allow customers to review their purchase prior to confirmation and payment. It also says that it could find no problems with its normal UK call centre service at the times you called. You tell us that Air Malta has now provided you with a full refund.

Q. The John Lewis Partnership issues vouchers every quarter, based on purchases used on its card. Unfortunately my vouchers for last month, worth £35, were thrown away by my wife into the paper recycling. I have asked the Card Services phone line for replacements, who told me they were sorry but nothing could be done. Can you help? TP, London.

A HSBC operates the card for the John Lewis Partnership. It has agreed to arrange to replace the vouchers. It apologises that this was not done when you phoned.

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