Questions Of Cash: Failure to read the small print proved costly
Saturday 20 June 2009
Q. My sister-in-law hired two cars through an internet car rental broker to travel from Turin airport to a chalet we stayed in over Christmas in France, prepaid by debit card. On the window of the car hire booth, a hand-written note advised that additives should be added to diesel fuel to prevent it from freezing. Both cars had a full tank of diesel. Neither car needed refuelling during our week away: we used just one car and only a few times. When we tried to start our homeward journey the unused car would not start, because the fuel had frozen. We contacted the car hire company, which advised us that we should not have taken the car out of Italy. It turned out this was in the very small print of the car hire agreement.
We had to remain with the car until recovered, missing our flights home. The car hire company said we did not qualify for any assistance in getting back to the airport. It cost six of our party £2,700 to return to the UK by train. We were charged an extra £230 by the car hire company – using our credit card deposit – for the recovery of the vehicle. The internet brokerage company is only contactable by email and did not respond to our enquiries. How can we pursue the matter to recover our money? HL, by email.
A.There are no obvious grounds for you to recover your costs from anyone. You explained, when we contacted you, that "my sister-in-law didn't tell [the car hire company or brokerage] we were taking the car out of Italy, but neither did they ask: we assumed it was OK to move around inside the EU". That was a mistake, compounded by you not checking the terms and conditions of the agreement. Although the EU has a 'single market' for goods and services, this does not mean that national boundaries be ignored. In fact, you may not even have been insured to drive the car in France – so you risked getting into even more serious difficulties.
The UK European Consumer Centre (UKECC) ( www.ukecc.net) is an expert advisory body that assists consumers in dispute with a trader based in another EU country. A spokeswoman for UKECC says: "Car hire contracts always stipulate that when hiring a vehicle, a consumer is bound to notify the car hire company if they are taking a vehicle out of the country where it is collected from – this is due to insurance requirements imposed on all car hire contracts.
"Consumers also have an implied duty of care to look after a vehicle while it is in their possession. It is a consumer's responsibility to read and understand any terms and conditions within a contract – even if it is within the small print – and a consumer's failure to read and understand these terms do not make a trader liable for any assistance or redress. In cases where the failure of a vehicle is not due to a breach of contract on the part of a trader, it is unlikely that they are obliged to reimburse a consumer with costs incurred." The UKECC adds that it is worth checking your own travel and car insurance policies to see if they cover your problem. But we think it is very unlikely they would do so.
Q. I made three hotel bookings for last month with Bookinhotel.com. When I made them last December my Visa provider, MBNA, phoned to ask why my card was being used in Istanbul. I had assumed the company was based in the US or Holland. MBNA allowed me to complete my bookings, but then cancelled my card to protect itself. Later, I needed to change our plans and cancelled two of the bookings.
Bookinhotel's conditions stated that accommodation could be cancelled without penalty up to a few days before the take-up date. In January, it confirmed the cancellations and said the charge would be refunded, without penalty, via my Visa provider within 15 days. No credit has appeared to date. MBNA said it could not help because I had cancelled the bookings. Phone calls and emails to Bookinhotel are met with pre-recorded messages, bland assurances by email and general non-cooperation. AR, Cornwall.
A. Bookinhotel ignored our requests to discuss your complaint. At our behest, MBNA issued a chargeback against Bookinhotel, so you are now fully refunded. There was a delay in processing the chargeback, as MBNA had to wait to do this until after the date of the accommodation that you originally booked. MBNA tells us that Bookinhotel initially told MBNA that it would credit you with the funds itself, but failed to do this. We would advise readers to choose websites with care when booking hotels, holidays, concert tickets and other items. We are not making any allegations against Bookinhotel, but the fact that a website looks professional is not a guarantee that there is a company behind it that is able to properly service your requirements, or that it will make a refund if there is a problem. It can be difficult to pursue consumers' rights with a company based in another country. At least you booked with a credit card, enabling you to obtain a full refund.
Q. We ordered a combined TV, phone and broadband package from Sky. It could provide the TV and phone, but not the broadband because of systems constraints. I regarded this as breaching the contract, so rescinded it. Sky accepted it should refund £169.99.
But in October Sky deducted this amount from my bank account instead of paying it to me. After I notified Sky, it refunded this in November. But Sky still owes us the £169.99. Each time we request this, the payment is declined because the computer says the amount has already been made. Can 'The Independent' get our money back for us? SE, Eastleigh.
A. Yes.Sky processed your payment with alacrity when we contacted them.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Budget 2015: George Osborne is set to get tough with further cuts in public spending
Buyers beware of new-build home headaches
Dirty tricks in a divorce can cause some nasty surprises
Simon Read: 'Taylor Swift tickets purchased on Viagogo were cancelled hours before the concert'
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Optical illusion turns blue demon into brunette
- 4 Right to die: Belgian doctors rule depressed 24-year-old woman has right to end her life
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...
Day In a Page
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
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.