Questions Of Cash: Extra charges for half-full train are off the rails
Saturday 08 October 2011
Q. I booked a short holiday for myself and my wife in Ghent with Trainbreaks.com. I received confirmation of the details and a quoted price of £724. I then received a voicemail instructing me to call Trainbreaks, where I was told that because there was an IMF conference in Brussels on the day of our outward journey, Eurostar had increased the fare by £20 per person. I presumed this was because of a shortage of Eurostar seats. The price was therefore £764, which I paid with credit card. But when we were on Eurostar to Brussels, I noticed there were free seats
in our coach. I then checked the seat occupation in other coaches and found some were half full or less. I can see no justification for being charged the extra $20. I wrote to Trainbreaks in August, but have not received a reply. TW, London.
A. Trainbreaks says that your query was investigated and a reply sent within a week. However, it seems there may have been confusion about your email address, causing you not to receive this. Trainbreaks has now resent that reply to you, which it has declined – on privacy grounds – to share with us. You have, though, sent us a copy. That correspondence says that Trainbreaks acted correctly and in accordance with information supplied by Eurostar. "Eurostar do not give us information regarding how many seats may be available to members of the public who book directly on any given train," said Trainbreaks. "They also place their own predetermined limits on how many seats they will allocate to tour operators such as ourselves, which are at substantially discounted prices. Although there may have been empty seats, had you tried to purchase them directly, the costs would have been significantly higher than those you paid via ourselves, even with the £40 supplement."
Q. I accumulated debts of several thousand pounds with HSBC over some years. This was the result of credit card debt and a professional studies loan. I approached a firm of debt advisers, the Debt Support Network, which contacted HSBC to propose a repayment structure as I was struggling to pay off the debt. An initial proposal was rejected by HSBC, but a revised one was accepted, which involved me making monthly repayments of £55.93. All my debts were merged into one managed loan. In return, I had to sign a contract saying that I would make the monthly repayments by standing order from my current account.
I then found out that the Debt Support Network knew nothing of this managed loan. After this, I dealt with payments being made incorrectly for several months, a standing order bouncing, for which I was charged £25, and many phone calls between myself, HSBC and the debt advisers. From time to time I have received phone calls and letters from HSBC saying that my managed loan is in arrears, or that I have missed a payment. I often find it impossible to understand what the call centre staff are saying.
Nine months ago, the Debt Support Network said that a different company, Immediate Financial, would handle my debts. I was assured this would not cause me any problems. In practice, Immediate Financial said it had to approach HSBC to agree a new repayment proposal. HSBC then imposed further bank charges. Immediate Financial tells me that the agreement has been renewed for another year. I received a statement from HSBC which made no reference to arrears, or missed payments. When I check my accounts online it says there are no charges or interest to be paid. PD, Yorkshire.
A. HSBC accepts that problems were caused by the Debt Support Network occasionally missing payment deadlines by one or two days. On this basis HSBC is refunding the related bank charges of £125. HSBC also promises not to phone or write to you if there are future missed payments. Immediate Financial tells us that it took over some of the Debt Support Network's client base earlier this year, but that the two companies are otherwise unconnected.
Q. Early this year I paid for return flights for two adults in June with Ryanair, from Liverpool to Carcassone. I was unable to travel in June, so I changed the booking to September, paying an extra £100 transfer fee and £100 for extra cost – a total of £713 for the flights. At the end of August my partner fell and broke her wrist. I tried to again change the reservation, this time to June 2012.
Unfortunately, I was unable to do so, as Ryanair flights between Liverpool and Carcassone had not yet been arranged beyond October 2011. I wrote to Ryanair ten days before the scheduled flight date, but it said that while it "sympathised" with my position, it was unable to offer me a refund or credit note, and suggested that I claim on my travel insurance, which I had not yet arranged. As far as I can tell, Ryanair's terms and conditions state that flights are fully "flexible", without stating what happens when future flights are not yet arranged. PG, by email.
A. The Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara says: "To deliver flexibility to our passengers, Ryanair allows bookings to be amended online via [the] Manage my Booking [online function] before the passenger has checked in, or via our reservations agents after they have checked in. Flight changes are available on routes that are confirmed and on sale only, as we can never guarantee that a route will operate in future schedules, until these schedules are finalised and placed on sale. [The reader] could have amended his flight to travel on any of the other 41 routes currently on sale from Liverpool, but instead opted not to travel on his existing booking, or amend his booking a second time." We suggest that next time you book an insurance policy at the same time as the flight.
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: email@example.com.
- 1 Reader dilemma: 'Our son is 34 with an IQ of 85, and spends all his time in his room. What will happen to him when we're no longer here?'
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Ginger Pride festival to take place next summer, organisers say 'time of bullying gingers is over'
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...
£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...
Day In a Page
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.