Questions Of Cash: 'Hotel costs lost after travel firm stopped trading'

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The Independent Online

Q. My son booked a "non-package" holiday last summer through a travel agent, flying with Kiss Flights. I took out travel insurance for him with the AA. Kiss Flights ceased trading and the travel agent could not find alternative flights, so the holiday was abandoned. Flight costs are being recovered via ATOL's protection scheme, but the hotel costs were lost. The travel agent explained that as it did not sell us a package holiday, it is not liable for the hotel costs. The AA insurers stated that as the hotel is still trading they are not liable either. We seem to have fallen between a rock and a hard place: is there anywhere further to pursue this? DH, Huntingdon.

A. You are correct in suggesting that no one is legally required to compensate you for the loss on the accommodation costs. Happily, though, the AA has agreed to be flexible. AA spokesman Ian Crowder explains: "Many – but by no means all – policies include trip abandonment and in common with other providers, the reasons for abandonment would be stated in the policy document and in the case of the AA are strike or industrial dispute; weather conditions affecting scheduled public transport; mechanical breakdown of the aircraft.

"Of course, none of these applied in this event and it is highly unlikely that any other policy would meet the cover under the circumstances. However, the AA does offer more comprehensive travel insurance than many and is always looking for ways to improve its cover to reflect changing travel patterns and is interested in feedback of this sort. [The reader] would not ordinarily have been able to recover his hotel costs, but we're grateful to him for pointing out the peculiar circumstances he has found himself in and, as a goodwill gesture, we are on this occasion meeting his loss, excluding the £60 excess."

Q. I purchased breakdown cover from Aviva in August. When I bought it I told the salesperson that I would soon be buying a new car from Ford, which would supply free breakdown cover. I was told that if I did, I would be able to have a refund from Aviva for the unused period of cover. I bought my new car and cancelled my Aviva cover on 5 October, when I was told I would get a refund as a voucher. This did not happen and I have consistently failed to get a satisfactory response from Aviva's customer service centre. BB, Canvey Island.

A. Aviva apologises "for falling short of our usually high standard of customer service". Apparently, the wrong code was entered into Aviva's IT system for the contract cancellation, but the advisers you spoke to were unaware of this and wrongly assumed that vouchers would be issued as promised. Aviva has agreed to pay you a full cash refund of £59.14, plus a £50 shopping voucher as a gesture of goodwill.

Q. I applied to Virgin Media for a BlackBerry and a mobile phone account. But after my credit reference came in, I was turned down. I contacted Equifax for an explanation, but it said that it only provided the information and that a company does not share with it the reasons for turning down an account application. I don't understand. AP, Brighton.

A. It seems that Virgin Media did not intentionally reject your account application and there is no problem with your credit rating. Virgin Media has now opened your account, delivered your BlackBerry, apologises for the inconvenience of the delay and has applied a £10 credit to your account as a gesture of goodwill.

Q. Barclaycard has imposed a late payment charge on my latest bill. I failed to notice that the due payment date for December was brought forward to the 17th of the month – in the previous months the due date had been the 23rd, 22nd, 22nd and 22nd and in January it was the 27th. It seems like "sharp practice" to bring forward the date in just one month. I spend over £7,500 a year on my Barclaycard and I am now looking at other card providers. I would like the late payment charge and interest refunded. MG, Leicester.

A. Barclaycard says that the payment date in December can vary significantly from other months because of bank holidays. Your statements are prepared on the 17th of each month, but the actual payment due date can vary, according to the dates of weekends and bank holidays. It also varies to assist Barclaycard manage the flow of post during a month. In the case of December, the due date was accordingly earlier than usual, while it was later in January. Barclaycard apologises for the inconvenience this has caused and assures that this was not intentional. It has refunded you with the £12 late payment fee and £10.70 interest that were charged. No adverse entry will be made on any credit reference report.

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