Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q Just over five years ago I went to my bank, HSBC, to ask for a loan to support my university course costs. A loan for £10,000 was approved: the cost of this rose significantly when interest and loan protection insurance was added. I was told by HSBC’s staff that the insurance would cover me if I was out of work for up to 12 months. Eventually I did find myself unemployed, applied on my insurance, but to my surprise I was told that I could not claim as I had moved from a permanent job to a contract position. This has caused me considerable financial difficulty and I had to borrow from relatives and friends. I have repeatedly complained to HSBC, but it has not addressed my concerns adequately and I have not been able to speak with anyone who can help me. ZP, Uxbridge.

A HSBC has now reviewed the sale of the policy and your circumstances and has agreed to refund your payment protection insurance (PPI) premiums in full. You will receive a payment of £3,549.45.

Q. I booked a holiday through James Villa Holidays to stay in a remote part of Umbria last September. It was intended to be special with my son, daughter, their partners, my one-year old grandson and my 81 year-old dad all together. We booked and paid for two cars, through James Villa. When we went to collect these from Hertz we had to wait three hours to be seen. James Villa said we had to pay a €700 deposit by credit card, but my son-in-law uses debit cards, not credit cards. We assumed Hertz would accept the €700 in cash instead, but it refused to accept cash, or the debit card, or use my credit card to cover both cars. Hertz would only offer us a Transit van in place of the two Ford Focus cars I had booked. We had to take this and pay extra to add my son-in-law as an extra driver. James Villa has offered us a £100 voucher against a future holiday, but refuses to accept any responsibility for the problem, claiming the onus was on us to have a credit card for the second car hire. MO, by email.

A You originally contacted us in November last year. Our repeated attempts at contacting Hertz to discuss the problems were unsuccessful, until we escalated the matter to its head office in the United States. A spokeswoman for Hertz now says: “At the time of booking the customer was advised, in order to comply with rental qualifications and requirements, that customers must hold a valid driver’s licence for one year, be over the age of 25 and hold a credit card in their own name which must be presented at the time of pick up for security purposes. The customer confirmed this information was relayed back to him, however, regardless of this, arrived at the branch with a debit card as the method of payment. A credit card is required as security for a deposit of any excess fees, optional charges and a full tank of fuel regardless of whether the rental is prepaid or not. Although the customer’s debit card was refused as a method of payment the branch did offer an alternative larger vehicle at no extra cost with the option of adding the second person as an additional driver. The bookings were prepaid through James Villa and not Hertz directly, and it is our understanding the customer has asked James Villa to refund the prepaid amount for the booking that was not used…. As a goodwill gesture, however, for the delay experienced at the time of pick up we have refunded the additional driver charge, €50.82. The delay experienced at the time of pick up is not the standard of service we expect our customers to receive…. The request for a credit card as a method of payment is a policy in place to protect the security of both the customers and the company.” A spokeswoman for James Villa Holiday makes a similar point. She says: “As [the reader] acknowledges in his question to you, he was advised by ourselves that a credit card would be required on collection of the vehicle.  [He] confirmed online that he had read the terms and conditions of the car hire, which included reference to a credit card being required by each driver upon collecting the cars from Rome airport.  These are standard conditions imposed by Hertz which we duly advise customers of.” It adds that the normal fee for the hire of one Ford Transit is slightly more than the charge for the two Ford Focus cars that you had booked. Your problem highlights the fact that debit and credit cards are different payment mechanisms and that it should never be assumed that if a credit card is asked for that a debit card can be substituted, nor vice versa.

Note: On 16 July, Questions of Cash described The Property Ombudsman asan industry scheme and not an independent body, backed by statute, as is the case with the Financial Ombudsman”. We have been asked to clarify these comments, as they may be misleading. The TPO makes the point that although the scheme was not established by statute, it has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading under the Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007. It also adds that the scheme is independent of estate agents and reports to a council comprised, in the majority, of non-industry members. There is an Independent Reviewer, to whom complaints about the The Property Ombudsman can be referred. As quoted in our previous column, The Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer explains: “I am not a regulator of the estate agency industry or a consumer guardian. It is my role to review complaints made by members of the public against member agents on an impartial basis, based on the evidence that is submitted to me, considering an agent’s obligations against the requirements of the [The Property Ombudsman] Code of Practice.” We apologise for any confusion caused.

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