Questions of Cash: Uphill struggle after skis were stolen from locker


Q We had a family skiing holiday in Vars in France in February, booked through Crystal Ski & Snowboard. On the second day of our holiday, we had our hire skis and boots stolen from our hotel's ski lockers, even though these were locked. We had insured our skis, but we were shocked that the insurer paid us £658 less than we had to pay the shop for the cost of the skis. We had used a ski hire shop in the resort that had been recommended by Crystal. We were unaware that the skis we hired were particularly expensive and exceeded the ski value insured on our policy. Neither the ski hire shop nor Crystal warned us of this. We used Fogg to insure the skis. We didn't use the insurer recommended by Crystal, but we calculate that if we had we would have lost even more. We have complained to Crystal twice, but without success. The total charged by the ski shop for the stolen skis worked out at £1,538; we had to pay €700 just for my husband's skis. We had a policy excess of £75 and a limit per person of £300, which restricted the insurance payout to £880. We have no complaint with Fogg, which settled our claim promptly and in line with its policy conditions. LT, Monmouthshire.

A Crystal Ski is part of the Tui travel agency. We have discussed this matter over several weeks with Crystal, which has been negotiating with the ski hire shop. Crystal has eventually obtained an improved solution, though not a perfect one from your point of view. The shop has agreed a 30 per cent reduction in the charge it made to you. By our calculation this should lead to a refund of about £461. Unfortunately, this will still leave you out of pocket by nearly £200. As you point out, the lesson from this is to check the extent of cover on a ski insurance policy and check this against the shop's valuation of its skis when these are hired. A spokeswoman for Crystal said it was concerned at your experience and felt that the €700 charge for a single pair of skis "does seem high". She added: "To comment on the point that the skis were inappropriate, too expensive and they should have been warned about the high cost of loss, we believe it would not be practical and [would be] too confusing to list the value of each pair of skis in each hire shop we use in the brochure or on the website. If a customer requires specific information to assist them when deciding on the level of insurance cover to purchase then we would of course obtain the relevant information from the supplier for them."

Q I was very interested to read about First Telecom in Questions of Cash (16 November) after your reader DB complained they were unable to obtain a refund for pre-paid calls after its "top up and talk" service closed in September. I had an £80 balance left at that point. First Telecom's recorded message suggested I should use up the balance before the service closed, but that was not practicable. There was no information about how to obtain a refund of the unused balance. DM, Berkshire.

Q I have had a similar experience waiting for a refund from First Telecom to that described by DB in your column. I subscribed to the Atlantic service in 2001, which then became Breathe and ultimately First Telecom, offering cheaper international calls. Having been away for an extended period, I phoned First Telecom on October 10 and was told that my refund cheque of £63.46 would be sent immediately. I have still not received this, despite repeated requests. ML, by email.

Q We had a First Telecom "top-up and talk" account. Like your reader DB, we have money on the account and we cannot get hold of First Telecom to recover this. AW, by email.

Q Like your correspondent DB, I am waiting for a refund from First Telecom, in my case for about £100, plus VAT. I requested this by letter on September 20. MJ, London.

A The problems with First Telecom initially emerged after we reported about a complaint with the parent company First Utility (Questions of Cash, 11 August, 2012), which we resolved only after considerable effort on our part. It now appears that the defunct First Telecom service has been no better. We have taken up all these readers' problems and believe that all these refunds have now been processed, but only, it seems, as a result of our intervention. A spokeswoman for First Telecom says: "A business decision was taken to cease the 'top up and talk' service on 15 September. On 31 July 2012 we gave notification to our customers that we were closing the service and this was done more than 30 days in advance of the closure, as per the terms and conditions of the service. We appreciate [the readers] have been loyal customers for a long period of time and so we would like to apologise that the service is no longer available. We'd also like to confirm that we will make contact with them… to notify them that we will refund them."

Q I am involved in a long-running dispute with the Three phone network. I have been a customer for seven years, without any previous problems. I always paid my bills on time. I terminated my contract late last year, giving formal notice. A month later Three wrote to me saying I owed them £86.71. I asked for an itemised bill, but I didn't receive a reply. Instead the debt was referred to debt collectors, who have patronised me and compelled me to pay. I repeatedly requested an itemised bill, but I was instead warned of litigation. CM, by email.

A At our request, Three has now sent you the itemised bill you had requested. With the opportunity to examine these, you have accepted that the bill was correct and the matter is now satisfactorily resolved.

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