Questions of Cash: I want a refund for these unfair overdraft charges


Q. Credit card fraud led to me receiving a £2,000 American Express bill. AmEx told me to cancel my direct debit with my bank, Alliance & Leicester, to avoid this payment being processed. I tried to cancel using A&L's online service and thought I had done this when I entered a "cancel" instruction – but it turned out that this just cancelled the cancellation request. This led to the direct debit being processed. When I realised, I phoned A&L and it approved a new overdraft limit to avoid triggering unauthorised overdraft charges. But A&L imposed charges anyway. It says it will not consider refunding these until the court cases on unfair bank charges are settled, arguing it has a waiver from the Financial Services Authority covering all bank charges regarded by customers as unfair. But my complaint is nothing to do with charges covered by these cases. LC, Cheltenham.

A. A&L accepts you are correct and that you have not been given the level of customer service you should have when you repeatedly complained. It apologises, is refunding fees of £35 and is making a goodwill payment of £50. Court cases on allegedly unfair charges imposed by the banks continue. A High Court ruling earlier this month supported banks' argument that fees levied for breaching overdraft limits and for bounced cheques cannot be regarded as unlawful penalty charges. However, this judgment covers only one element of the legal dispute.

Q. I received a "warning letter" from the Post Office after I declined to renew my house insurance with them, because there was a huge increase in the premium. The letter states that I owe £22.71 because I decided not to renew. The Post Office claims it sent out a renewal notice, but I was not given advance warning of the premium increase. When I was told, I immediately phoned the Post Office and said I would obtain insurance elsewhere. The Post Office attempted to take money from me anyway, using a credit card that had expired – so payment was declined. It is now demanding payment through this "warning letter". I was told that the terms and conditions of Post Office Insurance include a clause saying a charge will be made if the policy is not renewed. NS, London.

A. Ironically, it seems as if your insurance renewal letter was lost in the post. A Post Office spokesman says: "There is no charge for customers wishing not to renew their house insurance. What happened with this customer is the standard renewal invitation was sent to him a couple of weeks before the expiry of his home insurance policy inviting him to renew. The letter stated that if he decided to renew, he need do nothing further." As you did not receive the letter, you could not respond and the insurance was automatically renewed. The charge for £22.71 was for the period between the renewal date and the time when the Post Office processed your cancellation. But the Post Office accepts that you did not wish to renew and has cancelled the charge.

Q. After receiving a promotional offer from KLM by email I looked on its website and saw that return flights to Sao Paulo were available for £558. We had to confirm travel arrangements with our family in Brazil before we could book. But when we went to book, the cost of the flights had risen to £642.70. Thinking the flights would get more expensive still if we waited, we booked. But when I went back on another day I found the flights were back on sale for the dates we were flying at £558. I feel ripped-off for booking too soon. FN, Chalfont St Giles.

A.The return leg of the journey you booked was using an Air France flight, not one provided by KLM, therefore the promotional offer was not valid – even though KLM is owned by Air France. Airlines generally do not guarantee that flights available at one price will not become cheaper nearer to the date of travel.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; cash@independent.co.uk

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