Questions Of Cash: Atol needs all facts before spending public cash

Q. I booked a holiday in spring last year using flights with Goldtrail, which collapsed last summer. We have been waiting ever since for the refund. It was difficult for us to know how much the flights cost, as they were lumped together with hotel and a cruise, booked through a travel agent.

We have been asked for further information by the Civil Aviation Authority and it is difficult to know what else anyone could want. We have sent copies of bank statements, our credit card statement and a copy of the cheque. The holiday deposit was £775.20, which we paid in April by credit card, and the balance of £2,296 was paid on 14 June by cheque. We had to pay an extra £1,196 in July for replacement flights. SM, Gwynedd.

Q. In July last year I bought two return air tickets to Bodrum, Turkey, flying with Goldtrail and booked through a travel agency. Two days later, Goldtrail went bust. The agency insisted I had to wait for my refund to come through Atol which I was promised would take 12 to 16 weeks. More than six months later, I am still waiting. The travel agency has been uncontactable and offered no guidance on when I might receive a refund. The total cost of the flights was £524.28, and has been on my 22 per cent APR credit card since.

In December I received a letter from a company called Huntswood, acting for the CAA, requesting additional information. This is the only correspondence I have had. When I phone on the number provided there is an automated response telling me they can't speak to me now, and then cuts me off. As well as the refund for the flights, I want the CAA to pay for the interest I have had to pay on the cancelled flights. OM, London.

A. When Goldtrail collapsed, PwC was appointed administrator, but refunds were the responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority under the terms of Goldtrail's Atol bonding. Claims to the CAA must be processed via the travel agency – which caused problems for both readers. The CAA said it would normally process refund claims more quickly than with the Goldtrail collapse.

It explains: "Goldtrail's failure was unusual: it is rare for a travel operator to go into administration at the height of the summer, which unfortunately meant more people than usual were affected and the CAA is sorry to hear of your readers' experiences. Our number one priority is making sure people get their money back as quickly as possible. There are still a few claims to be paid and we hope to have these settled in the very near future.

"The Atol scheme is unlike an insurance policy: the funds available is public money held by the Air Travel Trust. Therefore a sufficient amount of evidence is needed to support a claim in order to validate it and pay it. If a claim is incomplete, with items such as receipts and proof of payments missing, the process can be slowed significantly as we try to establish the validity of the claim, and ensure public money is spent fairly."

Both readers' claims have now been processed, after a wait of more than six months. But the CAA is unable to pay any compensation for indirect losses, such as the cost of borrowing the money to pay for the flights.

Q. I have been charged high fees by Smile bank. It initially charged me £30 for a failed direct debit payment to my mortgage lender, First Active, which charged me an additional £25. I have two accounts with Smile, each with a fee-free overdraft of £500. My mortgage is paid by monthly direct debit on the first of each month.

At 8.30am on 1 February I logged into Smile internet banking. My first account had a negative balance of £700 because my mortgage direct debit had been processed. I immediately transferred funds from my other Smile account, so that both accounts were in credit. At some point after this, Smile claimed the money back from First Active, causing me to miss a mortgage payment, and charged me £30 pounds. I complained to Smile, which agreed to waive its fee, but it has not admitted any wrongdoing, nor offered to pay the £25 that First Active charged for the missed payment. I am angry with Smile as presumably it reclaimed the direct debit during business hours on 1 February, by when there were sufficient cleared funds in my account. ST, by email.

A. The Co-operative Bank, which owns the Smile brand, says the direct debit payment was returned to your account on 1 February because there were insufficient funds in your account. "Although [the reader] transferred funds into his current account on 1 February, our terms and conditions make it clear that sufficient funds should be available at 9pm the working day before a payment is due to be made," the bank said. "If sufficient cleared funds are not available at this time, we may decline to make a payment out of an account and the associated charges will apply. This is because many of our processes are automated."

Smile has waived your £30 fee because it has a policy that it will not invoke charges where a customer exceeds their limit only once in a year. However, it does not accept it made an error, so it is "not in the position to refund the charge incurred from the mortgage company". The bank adds that it if you had warned Smile before the due date of insufficient funds, it could have arranged to authorise the payment manually.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

    £20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

    Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

    £20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Execution Trader

    £30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global Rolling Spot FX, Comm...

    Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

    £Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game