Questions Of Cash: 'Long-running insurance Saga is a headache'


Q. In December 2010 Saga quoted me £382.18 to insure a Volkswagen Golf, based upon my 60 per cent no-claims bonus discount. It said that the policy would be sent immediately. But the policy did not arrive and I was unable to speak to anyone at Saga, despite repeated phone calls. I wrote on 12 January to cancel that policy.

On 19 January, I received a letter from customer services saying that Saga had "recently experienced high call volumes", but that the policy had been cancelled and a refund would be processed once I completed an enclosed form and it had received this back from me. I telephoned again to say that no such form was enclosed, but it was not until 31 January that I received the form, which was sent back immediately.

No money was forthcoming and I waited awhile to call again requesting my refund, only to be told that the cancellation was not acceptable to Saga Insurance. I then phoned once more to speak to someone more helpful and was told that the cancellation had now been approved and that I could expect a refund within a week or so. This "saga" has been going on for several weeks. PP, by email.

A. There was a sequence of problems in initially processing your insurance policy and then in cancelling the policy and refunding your payment. Saga failed to provide the policy within the time promised. It was then unable to cancel the policy as it had not received from you the return of the certificate of insurance – because you never received this. You then completed a Road Traffic Act declaration form in lieu of the returned certificate. Even then, Saga failed to make a prompt refund. Saga has now refunded your payment of £382.18, plus another £50 as a goodwill gesture. Saga's spokeswoman explains: "We have provided feedback and training to those involved, stressing the importance of processing refunds in a timely manner."

Q. After reading the reader's question "Atol needs all the facts before spending public cash" (Questions of Cash, 5 March), I wanted to add my experience. I booked a holiday through a travel agency to Zante in Greece for last summer, flying with Goldtrail. Following the collapse of Goldtrail I had to book extra flights. I originally paid £423, but then had to pay a further £500. As the other readers have pointed out, trying to get a refund has been hard work and I am hitting the same brick walls as them of automated phone calls, unreturned calls and unanswered emails. JM

A The Civil Aviation Authority says that the delay in processing a refund under the ATOL guarantee was in part caused because you changing address while the refund was being handled. It confirms that all paperwork has now been received and a payment will be made before the end of the month.

Q. My wife's Santander one-year bond matured in September 2010. She advised Santander in advance of the maturity date that she wanted the proceeds transferred to her current account, or alternatively paid by cheque. This is normal banking practice. But Santander required her to present herself at the local branch. This she did, but they were only prepared to release the funds by way of her opening another account which would be "both opened and closed the same day". We objected to this as it appeared a strategy to retain her funds and could damage her credit rating if the account remained open with an overdraft facility attached. But to expedite matters we reluctantly agreed.

We were unfortunately not able to take a cheque away as Santander had calculated the balance wrongly – which became the subject of another complaint! We have made contact with Santander on at least six occasions in the last six months just to close this unwanted account. Each month we receive a statement showing nil transactions, but still the statements come and nothing happens. It seems we cannot close an account and others cannot unlock their equivalent. CD, by email.

A Santander spokesman says: "We can confirm the funds from [the reader's wife's] bond account were transferred out on 20/08/2010 and the bond was closed on 22/11/2010. A complaint in respect of tax deducted and interest earned was dealt with and was eventually referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service, who found that our resolution was fair. A remaining, unused current account has now been closed following receipt of this complaint."

Q. We have a balance of £1,880 on an Egg credit card, which we want to transfer to my husband's Barclaycard as there is a 0 per cent deal on. We need to do this by the end of March. When Egg raised its interest rates last year we stopped using its card, but we still have a balance outstanding. But to transfer the balance to Barclaycard it requires an expiry date for the Egg card. Egg refuses to provide an expiry date, saying that Barclaycard does not need this. SM, by email.

A. Egg has now provided an expiry date for you to provide to Barclaycard, doing so in time for you to make use of the closing date for the Barclaycard 0 per cent balance transfer offer. A spokeswoman for Egg says: "We have contacted the customer and the account has now been closed. It is not our usual practice to provide expiry dates for security reasons and usually a customer can provide their own when they do a balance transfer. However, this was a specific case and we acknowledge we could have dealt with the issue sooner. For this and the inconvenience this has caused we have sincerely apologised." You say that you hope other readers will not suffer the same problem. Barclaycard has just bought the Egg credit card business from Citigroup, so we expect your specific situation not to recur.

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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