Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. In August last year I bought a 5 star warranty from Nationwide Autocentre to cover my VW Touareg. The vehicle had 65,000 miles on the clock and I was aware parts would be expensive if I had a breakdown. Two weeks ago the car broke down, at 80,000 miles and the AA towed us in. The car went to an approved garage, which diagnosed a propshaft bush failure, so it replaced the bearing bush and propshaft. I was then told by Nationwide Autocentre that the warranty did not cover failures from due wear and tear and it would not meet my claim for the bill of £1,016. Yet the 5 star warranty states ‘propshafts, including front and rear transfer shafts bearings’ are covered. My usual mechanic says the failure is not due to wear and tear and the propshaft should be good for 160,000 miles! JS, by email.

A. Nationwide Autocentres has been purchased by Halfords and the name has changed to Halfords Autocentres. Halfords has now agreed to meet your claim, less the £75 excess specified in your policy. Mechanics who conducted the repair told Halfords that the repair was technically outside the warranty terms and conditions. However, the vehicle was at the minimum end of the range in which such a breakdown might be caused by wear and tear. On this basis, your claim has been approved and your payment is now being processed.

Q. My partner and I had to travel to Ireland urgently in April after my partner’s 25 year old nephew died tragically. We booked flights on easyJet and hired a car with Hertz, both via the internet.  The cost for the car hire was £150.56, barring any extras. At Belfast International Airport we collected the car. When my partner was asked about extra insurance and another named driver, he declined both, as he always does. He remembers explaining to the Hertz representative why we were in Ireland and that we would only use the car to get to his home town for the funeral. She was very understanding and expressed sympathy. He signed Hertz’s copy of the hire ticket and away we went. But when we returned home and the credit card bill arrived, it contained extra Hertz charges. I then studied the hire ticket and deciphered the abbreviations. There were a lot of figures on it that did not make sense. I found that two of the amounts were for the extra insurance that had been specifically declined. These added £132.54 to the bill, bringing the total to £283.10 for an economy two-door car hired from 25 to 30 April. I contacted Hertz, but it confirmed the charges and refused to make a refund. LS, by email.

A. A spokeswoman for Hertz apologises for the extra charges, which were included unintentionally. She explains: Upon checking we have discovered that the charges were made in error and are processing a full refund and writing a letter of apology to the customer.  We very much regret that [the reader’s partner] was accidentally charged for the extras due to human error, and then not spotting that error when [the reader] first wrote to us.  Upon receipt of her first letter, we went back to the signed paperwork, rather than checking with the location direct, which we should have done. Since her second letter [via Questions of Cash] we have checked with the location and can indeed confirm the completely unintentional error. We deeply regret the stress and upset that this has caused, particularly at such a terribly tragic time for them. By way of apology, we will also issue [the reader’s partner] with a gift voucher worth $100 which can be used at any Hertz location.”

Q. I am trying to set-up savings accounts for my 10 and 11 year old children, after they were left substantial legacies by my late father. But I am finding that lots of the best savings accounts are only available to adults, over 16, and the children’s savings accounts either offer a low rate of interest, or higher rate accounts are subject to regular, monthly, savings of fairly small amounts. Why is this? RS, Leicester.

A Moneyfacts has just praised a new savings account offered by Aldermore, which offers fixed rates of interest of up to 4.60 per cent – for savers aged 18 and over. Simon Healy, head of savings at Aldermore, says “the youth market is not a sector we are targeting – although we may consider doing so in the future”. Its target market, he adds, is “typically older savers with large lump sums, looking for stable growth and income over the long term”. But he adds: “Aldermore does have a small number of under 18 account holders and, in exceptional circumstances, we may be willing to consider opening a saving account for an under 18 year old, if the need arose. For example, if a young person was left a lump sum inheritance by a grandparent, then a fixed rate bond may be appropriate.” But individual circumstances would be considered before a product was offered. Michelle Slade of Moneyfacts comments: “In the majority of cases, the level of money invested in children’s savings accounts is a lot lower than adult savings accounts, meaning they are not a target market for the providers.”

Q. I have vouchers issued by Homebase to the value of £30, which do not contain any expiry date, or any terms and conditions, nor have I ever been told that they could expire. But now I find I can no longer use them, despite an exchange of emails with Homebase asking them to accept the vouchers. MG, London.

A. The vouchers were issued as part of Homebase’s Spend and Save scheme, which ceased in 2009. Holders of vouchers should have been contacted by Homebase before this time, warning that the scheme was to expire. As you did not receive any notice, Homebase has agreed to exchange these old vouchers with current Homebase gift vouchers.

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