Questions Of Cash: A lesson in damage control for Europcar

By Paul Gosling
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The Independent Online

Q. Last year, we hired a rental car from Europcar. When we returned it, the company flagged a scuff mark on the chrome door-guard as new damage. My wife hadn't checked the car closely when she picked it up, so we don't know if it was there already. Following Europcar's "rental guide matrix" for how much repairs should cost, the manager debited a £250 excess damage as a "deposit", but my wife was promised it would only cost £60 to £80 once Europcar repaired the chrome strip. Europcar now refuses to refund any money, even though its claims department has no record that it repaired the car, let alone what it cost. We have been frequent customers and now pay extra to avoid an excess, but it will lose a regular customer if it continues to treat people this way. JT, Cambridge.

A. Europcar accepts it should only have retained £55, not the £235 it actually kept – it says the £250 figure you quote is wrong. It apologises and has refunded to your credit card account the £180 wrongly retained.

Q. I was approached by a company that produces calendars, Colour Banners, to advertise my services as a piano teacher. I paid for the advertisement, £229.13, by Bank of Scotland MasterCard, in October 2006. I was promised that the calendar would be distributed to students at Bromley College, which is in the catchment area for my work. But there is no evidence that the calendar was ever distributed. The only service I received was a "mock-up" of the calendar. I cannot get any satisfaction from Colour Banners. DH, London.

A. We asked Bank of Scotland to investigate your complaint and consider a refund on your credit card, and we arranged for you to show your paperwork to the bank. But as the contract appears to be perfectly valid, Bank of Scotland has no grounds for making a refund. Colour Banners insists that it distributed 2,000 calendars through Bromley College and has provided us with a copy of its agreement with Bromley College to do this. Colour Banners says that Bromley College accepts that it received the calendars and placed these in student common-rooms, for students to decide whether they wanted them. But Colour Banners concedes that there may not have been many students who took the calendars and that, as a result, it accepts that you got no work from the advertising.

We also spoke with Bromley College, which says it is not in a position to confirm or deny receiving the calendars, which would have been delivered about 15 months ago. Colour Banners says it has "done everything we are supposed to do" and so will not make a refund. It would have been willing to provide you with a free advertisement in the next calendar – except that your repeated complaints to Bromley College have led to it refusing to distribute the calendar in future, and so your local version of the calendar will not be published in future.

If you remain dissatisfied, your only option is to take legal action against Colour Banners, but it is not clear that you have grounds for this or any prospect of success. You should probably just accept that advertising is not always successful.

Q. In 2006, I successfully applied to British Gas for a £60 rebate for senior citizens on low income or state benefits. I have only received £30 of this for 2006 and none of the £60 I am due for 2007. I also have a grievance with British Gas that it transferred my electricity account from Southern Electric without my knowledge or consent. I managed to get the account restored with Southern Electric, but requests for compensation have been rejected. ET, London.

A. British Gas is sending you £30 compensation for its errors and has now processed the due rebates. It has also transferred you on to its Winter Warmer package, which provides the low-income elderly with further rebates and the offer of grants for home insulation.

Q. My wife took out car insurance in December last year with the RAC. Her car was hit outside the house by an unknown car, leaving the car's side wing damaged and the driver's door unable to be opened. We reported the damage to the RAC, requesting to have it repaired soon. We were advised that the engineer would contact us to inspect the car within three working days to enable the repair to be authorised. But the engineer never contacted us, despite my calls every day. SH, by email.

A. Norwich Union, which operates the RAC insurance service, says it took a week for its engineer to contact your wife and accepts the service was unacceptable. It apologises and has sent your wife flowers to say sorry.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS;

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