Questions Of Cash: Refund run-around after air passenger fell ill


Q. My brother-in-law had to cancel a trip to Canada when he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia last September – he is still seriously ill in hospital. He has asked me to obtain a refund on his air ticket.

The trip was arranged by Canadian Affair, which has refunded 20 per cent of the cost, £76.91. I have been in correspondence with both Canadian Affair and the travel insurer, Towergate Chase Parkinson, trying to obtain the balance.

The insurer argues that the airline should refund the taxes and duties portion of the fare, but Canadian Affair says they are not obliged to do so. The airline, Thomas Cook, refers me back to Canadian Affair. The cost of the flight was £41.50, the tax and surcharges amounted to £286.50 and the travel insurance was £39.99. SR, by email.

A. Towergate Chase Parkinson has agreed to fully reimburse your brother-in-law with the balance of the air fare costs. A spokesman for the insurer said it had not previously understood the position adopted by Canadian Affair.

Q. HSBC has closed my wife's bank account, without authority and without her consent. It has sent her a cheque for the balance in her account, which is a worthless piece of paper without a bank account. She seems to have been the victim of identity theft. As my wife does not speak English as a first language, she asked me to deal with HSBC.

We were asked by HSBC to go to a branch, with proof of identity, to resolve the matter. There we were told that a letter had been sent to her last December, warning if she failed to contact them her account would be closed – she never received that letter. It apparently stated that "activity on your account suggests that your circumstances have changed and we may need to update our records". As her circumstances had not changed, we did not know what this meant.

The HSBC employee explained that the account was "locked", so she could not tell us until we provided further proof of identity and answered additional security questions. We were frustrated by this and asked to see a manager. We were then told that the problem related to a large sum of money that my wife paid into her account in September last year, following which large sums were withdrawn on her debit card outside the UK. My wife had been in Bulgaria at this time and paid money to renovate her apartment there. She had pre-warned the bank she was doing this. The payments were not declined or queried at the time.

The branch then told us that because of the bank's investigations, it was unable to reopen my wife's account. We then realised that the bank had closed the account and that it had issued a cheque for the balance, which could not be used. My wife asked for the money in cash, but was told this was not possible as it was not a branch cheque. Instead, the cheque would have to be cancelled and the cash sent to the branch. We asked how long this would take and was told this was out of the branch's hands.

We then left, but submitted a complaint to the bank. Soon after, my wife received a letter from Littlewood's, saying that her application for credit had been declined – yet she had made no such application. When I phoned Littlewood's, it emerged that someone had used her identity to order an iPad2 and a handbag, requesting the items be delivered to another address. Littlewood's had been suspicious, recognised that an incorrect date of birth had been used, rejected the order and wrote to my wife.

Littlewood's told me this was a case of identity theft and registered it with the anti-fraud agency CIFAS. I was told my wife would have to contact the credit reference agencies to ensure her credit status was not affected. I tried to register my wife to do this, but as she no longer has a credit or debit card because of HSBC's actions, we have been unable to do this. DS, Bishop's Stortford.

A. You seem trapped in a nightmare of implied allegations that you and your wife are unable to refute and which Franz Kafka might have recognised. To make matters worse, HSBC insists that to comply with money-laundering regulations, it is unable to reinstate your wife's account.

A spokesman for the bank says that your wife breached the terms and conditions of her account. "HSBC closed [the reader's wife's] account in line with our terms and conditions," he said. "On several occasions [she] deposited tens of thousands of pounds into her account in cash and then withdrew the funds within a day or so overseas. This was not in line with her existing use of her account and was a money-laundering concern for the bank.

HSBC has robust procedures for activity like this." The bank points out that another bank, Coutts, has just been fined £9m for breaches of money-laundering regulations. Responding to your complaint about your wife not being able to access the funds from her account, HSBC says that your wife collected her account balance in cash from the branch on the same day you wrote to us.

HSBC adds that there is no indication that your wife has been a victim of identity fraud in relation to her bank account. What your wife's difficulties illustrate with clarity is the need for people dealing with large sums to recognise the importance of complying with money-laundering regulations and to plan transactions very carefully to ensure that they neither breach those rules, nor appear to be engaged in dubious activities. This is especially true where a person is involved in cross-border transactions. You tell us that you will now complain to the Financial Ombudsman, seeking to reinstate the account with HSBC. However, it is clear that HSBC will continue to object to this.

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:

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
All British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

    Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

    Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

    £Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

    Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

    £Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

    £90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game