Questions Of Cash: 'I have been hit with excessive hire car charges'


Q. You helped me get my Barclaycard bill below its credit limit (Questions of Cash, 14 November), but now Barclaycard tells me I have been paying for PPI for years when the policy did not cover me. HA, London.

A. You contacted us seeking help in getting your Barclaycard bill under control. It became clear that part of the reason for the high level of debt was the cost of your PPI – Payment Protection Insurance – policy for your Barclaycard debt. We cannot give financial advice, but we explained that consumer advisors – particularly Which? – argue that PPI policies are not good value for money. You then phoned Barclaycard to cancel the policy. The telephone operative told you that the policy ceased to cover you when you reached 65 – four years ago – and promised you a refund of four years' premiums, £864.

We intervened again and told Barclaycard that we believed you should also be repaid the interest on the cost of the policy over the period, plus a goodwill payment equivalent to the interest if you had invested the money. We both hoped that this would go a long way in clearing your total credit card debt. At this point, Barclaycard realised that you were misinformed by its operative.

At age 65, the PPI cover reduces, but does not end – you were still covered for accident, sickness and hospitalisation and, as you were still in employment, for involuntary unemployment. As Barclaycard already promised to refund you £864, it has credited your account with this sum. It will also provide a £50 goodwill payment, reflecting its failure to properly communicate with you. In fact, Barclaycard has made a thorough mess of this and you are now disappointed that you still owe it several hundred pounds. But you are in a much better position than you were a few weeks ago, with nearly half your credit card debt now cleared.

Q I hired a car from Europcar. Afterwards I had to pay two extra charges. One was for €2.50 and the other €75 (£68), plus 20 per cent VAT, which were taken from my credit card without authorisation. Yet I had paid an extra premium so that I didn't have to pay any insurance excess. There were a couple of scratches on the car when returned. But I did not have any accidents and if these happened during the time of hire, they must have been caused by other cars whilst the hired vehicle was parked. I made a declaration at the time of returning the vehicle that the car had not been in any accidents. I have been unable to get Europcar to make a refund and I regard the charges as excessive. KB, by email.

A. Europcar has confirmed that €75 was charged as "a damage processing administration fee" imposed by Europcar Italy. "This is a standard fee with Europcar Italy, as stated in the terms and conditions of the rental agreement," says the company and is not affected by your payment of a premium to cover the insurance excess. You were unaware of any damage to the car while it was your responsibility. There are two explanations for this: it may have been damaged while parked, or it may have been there before you rented it, but was not noted on the rental agreement. Europcar is not prepared to waive the charge and we can only suggest that next time you hire a car that you park carefully and check the surface of the hire car carefully before you rent it.

Q. I first used my 3 mobile broadband at Christmas last year. I made extensive research in a Carphone Warehouse store about which mobile broadband would give me best coverage in my home. In April, after a number of problems connecting, I rang 3. The advice worked, though again the signal was not good. In August I had great difficulty connecting, losing the connection within seconds most of the time. I was told by 3 that there were no plans to upgrade the service. The service is now unusable from my home. I have been unable to get a response from 3. ID, Cambridge.

A. 3 has now refunded you for the total cost of your mobile broadband package and apologises.

Q. My father passed away last year and I found an Abbey ISA book in my name holding around £9,000. I recall my mother opening an ISA account in my name a few years ago, but she died in 2000. I am not aware of the account being closed and the book has not been stamped as closed. Abbey does not seem interested. Can you help? SM, Hampshire.

A. It is possible to close savings accounts without having the pass book – and this seems to have happened here. The account was closed in 2002. Unfortunately, Abbey only holds full account records for six years and the paperwork associated with the closure of this account has been destroyed. A closing balance of £10,857.33 was transferred to another Abbey account. That account has since been closed, apparently by cheque – though there are no records to show who the beneficiary was. Nor does Abbey have any records showing the signature used to close the accounts. It would appear that you have been the victim of a fraud, but Abbey seems to have acted properly. You can lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman if you wish.

Q. I ordered a car gearbox in July over the phone and £149.50 was taken from my credit card account. The gearbox did not arrive as promised, only arriving after I cancelled the order and had gone on holiday using another car. GO, by email.

A.You paid using a Nationwide Visa debit card. This comes with a level of payment guarantee. As a result – after several weeks of investigation – Nationwide has been able to chargeback the payment to your supplier and you have been fully compensated.

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: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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