Questions Of Cash: 'EasyCar's mistake was costly – now I want a full refund'

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The Independent Online

Q. In April I booked a car through EasyCar for two weeks for pick-up and drop-off at Nice airport. I was told the vehicle would be supplied by Budget. On arrival, Budget told me there was no booking and no cars were available. I called EasyCar which confirmed it had made a mistake and was unable to fulfil the contract. Hertz rented us a car at €1,039.83 for two weeks, compared with the €547.86 that EasyCar had agreed. EasyCar has paid me just €114.57 of the extra costs, refusing to pay me the balance because it includes "additional insurance supplements" – but so did the EasyCar charge. I think EasyCar is being unreasonable. CC, Godalming.

A. EasyCar accepts there was a failure in communication between it and Budget, and apologises. The company says it has improved its systems to prevent a recurrence. It points out that it immediately refunded €114.57, although it is not contractually required to pay you the difference between what you would have paid EasyCar/Budget and what you actually paid Hertz. EasyCar argues that it was correct in saying that the difference in costs partially reflects higher levels of insurance that you opted into with Hertz. However, it accepts that it would have been difficult for you to realise this and has therefore now paid you a total of €283.74. Your remaining loss of €208.23 EasyCar represents as a payment for "PI". You say that Hertz told you this was part of the deal it offered you for one of only two cars available and that you did not even know what it was. John Sinke, marketing director, told us that PI is an additional insurance policy covering you and your passengers which was an "unnecessary insurance", assuming you already had a travel policy for your holiday. But he also accepted "that it is not impossible" that you were told that you had to take out the policy, even though it should have been optional. Sinke confirmed that EasyCar would not meet the cost of this. "We have refunded more than we should have done," he said. "We have been more than fair in this case."

Q. Four years ago I took out a finance agreement with BMW Financial Services to purchase a BMW 318. I paid 10 per cent of the purchase price as a deposit, then £407 monthly. The agreement gave me an option to purchase the car outright after four years with one final payment, or give it back. BMW has tried to take the final payment of £8,546 from my bank account. I was given no warning, but my original agreement allows them to do this. The payment was refused twice as I had insufficient funds in the account. I am told that as the four-year agreement has ended and I did not say I wanted to return the car, that option is no longer available and I am obliged to purchase the car. GL, by email.

A. BMW Financial Services' records showed that you opted to retain the car, which is why the payment request was triggered. Your dealer contacted you several months ago, left a voicemail message, but failed to speak to you. This call was intended to ask if you wanted to keep the car or return it. You returned the call several times, but you were unable to speak to the person who phoned you. No further attempt was made to contact you by the dealer or BMW Financial Services. A letter should have been sent to you, asking if you wanted to keep the car. This letter was not sent because the dealer reported that you wanted to buy it. BMW Financial Services agrees that this is not satisfactory, apologises, and has agreed to put you back in the position you were at the end of the four-year period and accept the car back without further payment by you. It is also paying you £50 to cover the bank charges you incurred because of the failed attempts to take £8,546 from your account.

Q. I tried to cancel my CarphoneWarehouse contract in May. Each month since, I have been sent bills, phoned them, and been told the account has been cancelled. Last month I had a demand for £29.63 – an amount I had never been asked for before. I paid it to prevent a debt collection agency coming round, but I can't get them to confirm they received the payment. When I did manage to speak to someone she said she was going on holiday and would deal with it on her return. RD, Kidlington.

A. We have had no more success than you in getting an explanation from the company. But at least our intervention has led to you being paid £62.89, which you are satisfied with if it puts an end to the matter. Neither you nor we know how the amount was calculated.

Q. I have a Nationwide cash ISA. The interest rate seems lower than elsewhere. Can I transfer the balance to another cash ISA, perhaps the National Savings ISA? PC, by email.

A. Nationwide is paying between 5.55 per cent and 5.75 per cent on its cash ISAs, depending on the amount saved. Better rates are available elsewhere. The rules on ISAs permit you to transfer the balance from one cash ISA to another – and, now, from a cash ISA to an equity ISA. To do so you must first open the new account and give the new account issuer authority to make the transfer. But several of the best-paying cash ISAs are not available for transfers. National Savings has a direct ISA, which pays 6.3 per cent – but is not available for transfers. You can transfer into its standard cash mini ISA, but this pays just 5.35 per cent. The best rate we could find for an instant notice mini cash ISA that accepts transfers is from Kent Reliance Building Society (0845 122 0022), paying 6.21 per cent.

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