Questions Of Cash: Extra charges for half-full train are off the rails

Q. I booked a short holiday for myself and my wife in Ghent with 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:

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

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

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

    SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

    £22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map