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Spend & Save

Questions Of Cash: Barclays' doubt over 7/7 payout ended in debt

Q. I was a customer with Barclays for several years, but closed all my accounts in spring 2008 – I thought. I was badly injured in the London 7/7 bombings and received compensation. When I went to the bank with a compensation cheque, the woman at the counter was very rude and quizzed me as to "where you got this money" and "what was it for", as if I was a drug dealer. This was despite the cheque clearly stating London Bombing Charity Relief Fund. So I closed my account.

In mid 2009, I received a phone call saying I was overdrawn and was jeopardising my credit history. Barclays checked and discovered that a standing order used to transfer money from my current account into my savings account had been left active, even though there was no money in the accounts. Fees of more than £600 had accumulated.

A year later, I got the same calls again. I was then told to go into a Barclays' branch to ensure that the accounts had been closed properly. There, I explained the situation, and the clerk agreed that Barclays had made a mistake. I was promised a letter of apology – which I never received. Now I have had calls from RMA debt collectors, telling me that they are in ownership of the debt and seeking to collect it. RMA says it needs a letter from Barclays to clear the account before it can cease collection action. This is apparently affecting my credit rating and I am stressed by the situation. WW, London.

A. Your "debt" had reached £725.04, when collectors contacted you. Although the standing orders had eventually been cancelled and the value of the transfers removed from your accounts, an administrative oversight meant that a charge of just £3.01 was left outstanding. Subsequently, account charges, fees and interest accumulated so that the balance escalated to a shocking £725.04. This is a disturbing example of the way that small charges can build-up into substantial debts. Not surprisingly, an investigation by Barclays has upheld your complaint and the bank apologises. It has cleared the balance on the account and corrected your credit file. We hope that Barclays is suitably embarrassed.

Q. My wife and I visited Paris for four days in August, flying with Air France. When I arrived, our baggage had gone missing – along with that of another 30 or 40 passengers. We reported the problem to Air France, which reassured us the bags would be found and delivered promptly to our hotel. They arrived two and a half days later. When we reported the bag lost, Air France said we could spend €200 on necessary items until the luggage was found. It gave us a pre-addressed envelope to send a covering letter and receipts. We posted this the day after we arrived home, but when we chasedit up we were told Air France had no record of receiving the claim and that we were now out of the 21-day period for making a claim. DP, Sussex.

A. We have had several complaints in recent months about lost bags on flights via Air France and its subsidiary KLM. Happily, your bags were only delayed, not lost. Unhappily, Air France continues to refuse to meet the costs of the items you replaced. It quotes the Montreal Convention, which determines the compensation that airlines are required to pay when bags are lost, or flights cancelled or delayed. As your original letter with receipts was apparently lost in the post, Air France declines to provide any recompense for your out of pocket expenses. You, and other readers, are warned to send any such claims by recorded delivery.

Q. My family are keen cyclists and we travelled to Torquay, taking three bikes on a cycle carrier bought from Halfords. The carrier failed when a bolt sheared, causing serious damage to all three bikes. We took them to a Halfords store, which agreed that the carrier had failed and gave us a full refund for the cost of the carrier.

On our return home, we requested compensation for the damage to the bikes. We were told to get two quotes for the cost of repair – a total of £2,199.97 – which we sent to Halfords. When we did not receive a response, we checked and were told the letter had not been received. Then we were told that the carrier had been destroyed because of the long time lapse, so it was not possible to do tests on it.

We have been sent a cheque for £500 in the interests of "good customer service", with a letter explaining that the local store has said the damage to the bikes was only cosmetic. But our local store has not seen the bikes, which we cannot ride. RR, Doncaster.

A. Halfords has offered to have your bikes checked again for a further opinion on the level of damage. This offer was rejected by you, on the grounds that you could not transport the bikes to a Halfords store. Halfords has now agreed to collect the bikes from your home, to enable an in-store assessment to be carried out. It promises the company will "ensure a fair outcome".

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.co.uk