Questions Of Cash: Thomas Cook vouchers 'were mis-sold'

 

Q. We gave my son £230 in Thomas Cook vouchers last autumn, which we bought for his birthday. Just after Christmas, he tried to purchase online two nights in London, but the vouchers were not accepted. This is despite the reverse of the vouchers clearly stating that they can be redeemed online.

My son telephoned Thomas Cook and was told he had to take them to one of their branches as the vouchers could not be used online. He took them to the company's Winchester branch, but the offers available online were not available in the shop. Later, he went back to try to purchase Eurostar tickets with the vouchers, but was told that he could not purchase these tickets without a holiday as well. We feel that the vouchers were mis-sold to us. SM, Dorset.

A. Your son appears to have been given wrong information when he phoned Thomas Cook. The vouchers can be used for online bookings – though even the company admits the process for using them is not straightforward. Detailed information on how to redeem the vouchers online is published on the Thomas Cook website. A company spokeswoman said: "We are in contact with [the reader's son] and are helping him to make his booking using his Thomas Cook travel vouchers." She added that Eurostar does not permit any retailers to sell its tickets: this restriction is not imposed by Thomas Cook.

Q. In the summer of 2006, my sister and I asked Barclays' financial advisers to find the best investment for the money from the sale of our parents' house to pay for their residential care. By then they were both in care homes. The proceeds of the house sale came to £387,000, to be divided equally between them as tenants-in-common. My father needed greater, and therefore more expensive, care. My mother's care home fees were £37,000 a year and our father's approximately £65,000 a year. The two Barclays advisers spent some hours with us at my sister's house and were fully informed of all the circumstances and our requirements.

We needed to make the money go as far as possible, but to have access for the monthly fees for both parents. The advice was to put £80,000 of our mother's funds into bonds, one with Prudential, the other with Axa. The rest was supposed to cover her fees until the bonds matured. In fact, this left us short of easily accessible cash and we had to withdraw a total of £32,500 from the two bonds, thereby incurring penalties – exactly what we had wanted to avoid. For our father, who was already 98 at the time of the advice, the advisors had no suggestions, so we put all his half of the money into an instant-access account at Birmingham Midshires. I realise now that they could, at the very least, have suggested putting a portion of it into a 12 or 18-month higher-rate deposit.

My father died on 1 January 2010, aged 101, by which time we had got down to £22,000 and social services had to step in to help with his fees. My mother died on 1 January 2011. It was only then I felt able to make a formal complaint to Barclays, which I did in August. I received a reply in October, in which Barclays upheld my complaint and agreed that the bonds had been inappropriate. But Barclays also claimed that despite the penalties, we were still better off and had made a gain. They offered compensation of £239, despite us paying penalties of £691. Surely a better recompense is due? Barclays also says it has no record of any advice being given regarding my father's funds. JS, London.

A. The advice was provided by Barclays Wealth, which has provided us with a comprehensive explanation of how it calculated the compensation it believes is due. The investigation concluded that the advice to invest in the Prudential and Axa bonds "was not appropriate". "We did not consider that an investment of £80,000 into products with a minimum recommended term of five years was appropriate," concluded the investigation. They also accept that the administrative arrangements caused by the foreseeable need to cash the bonds in early were likely to cause distress.

However, despite what is acknowledged to be the inappropriateness of the advice, it did yield a financial gain if the alternative is assumed to have been to place the funds in a short-term deposit account earning interest rate at the then Bank of England base rate. Some £1,907.22 was gained by putting the money in the Prudential bond, rather than on short-term deposits. The situation was different regarding the Axa bond, where the early withdrawal led to a loss compared to putting the money on deposit. That loss was £239.51, which is the amount of compensation Barclays Wealth believes it owes you, plus 8 per cent interest that could have subsequently been accumulated of £4.36. Barclays Wealth says that while you and your sister understood the risks attached to the investments, you did not realise that you would have to pay penalties for early access to the funds.

Given that no advice was actually given regarding your father's finances, Barclays Wealth does "not feel it appropriate to pay compensation" for any loss caused by putting the money in a lower-interest account. A spokesman for Barclays Wealth says: "We are sorry for the poor experience that [the reader] has had in relation to the sale of the two bonds to her mother and subsequent interaction with the bank. We have upheld the complaint in full, and offered [the reader] redress that puts her in a better position than she would have been in had the original advice not been given and the monies remained on deposit, making our calculation at least in line with what the Financial Ombudsman Service awards when it is established that the complainant should not have taken any risk."

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: questionsofcashindependent.co.uk.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

    £30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

    Junior IT Consultant (SQL, Java, C++, Oracle, Graduate)

    £28000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A fast growing consultancy to the financia...

    Technical Support Analyst (Windows, Linux, Unix, Graduate)

    £30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Support Analyst - Liverpool Stre...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil