United Kingdom

ASK TONY: Husband's birthday Beatles treat fell victim to coronavirus

For my husband's 50th birthday I booked an apartment via Booking.com for a holiday at Liverpool's docks. 

He wanted to see all The Beatles memorabilia and we had tickets to see the tribute band.

Now coronavirus means we have been told not to travel unless it is essential. I asked the apartment's owner if I could transfer the dates or receive a refund, but they refused. We have had two really tough years. 

Booking.com were less than helpful when a couple's trip to Liverpool to see the Beatles memorabilia had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic

Our son passed away two years ago. Then my husband was knocked off his bike by a hit-and-run driver, while on a ride from John o'Groats to Land's End in aid of the charity Mind, in memory of our son.

He fractured two vertebrae and a hip socket, but he still did the ride and raised £18,000. 

During his training, I had a burst appendix, sepsis and pleurisy. I'm just devastated. 

I've had to close my salon, and my husband is working so many hours as he is a HGV haulage driver. 

I can't afford to lose more than £500. Booking.com said to go through the accommodation provider.

R. C., by email.

What an appalling two years you've had — though your husband's fundraising efforts illustrate how good people can provide a beacon in even the toughest of times.

When I explained the situation to Booking.com, it swiftly came to the rescue and returned your money.

A Booking.com spokesman says: 'At Booking.com our utmost concern is for the safety and security of our customers, partners and colleagues. 

We are monitoring the situation, including announcements and instructions from the World Health Organisation and relevant local authorities, so that we can help support those impacted.

'In this case, given the travel restrictions that are in place in the UK, we have refunded this customer in full and apologised for any confusion created by the back and forth they had over this matter with the property.'

This crisis really is splitting the good companies from the bad. I am sure we will all remember who fell on which side and who deserves our business when this is all over. Speaking of which, I can recommend a stay in Liverpool after my wife and I had a wonderful visit in February.

One tip: Booking.com highlights places that allow cancellation up to 24 hours before arrival — we always opt for one of those, just in case.

Straight to the point 

My Fitbit screen is so dim I can't see anything. When I looked on the firm's community site, I saw lots of people have had the same problem since a system update. 

Yet Fitbit has refused to give me a discount or an upgrade.

J. J., by email.

Fitbit refused to comment on the screen issues. Two days after I contacted the firm, you were offered a replacement.

*** 

My holiday to Tenerife was cancelled when Thomas Cook went bust last September.

I'm yet to get a £2,734 refund, despite making a claim to the Civil Aviation Authority in October.

C.M., by email.

The CAA told me it asked you for more information but you say you never received this request. 

A week after giving the additional details you received your money back.

*** 

When Extra Energy collapsed, my account was £179.65 in credit. My energy supply was transferred to Scottish Power, but when I switched I only received a cheque for £3.92.

P. B., by email.

A mix-up at Scottish Power meant your Extra Energy credit was not included in your balance when you moved. 

It has now resolved the matter and refunded you the full amount.

*** 

I agreed a new phone contract with TalkTalk for £23.50 per month, including unlimited UK calls. But in December I was billed £28.50. 

TalkTalk says the additional £5 was for its unlimited UK call package, but I had previously been told this would not cost extra.

K. L., by email.

TalkTalk says it has reviewed the recording of your conversation with customer services and can confirm you agreed to a bill of £28.50 per month, including UK calls. 

But the company has offered a goodwill gesture of £90 to cover the £5 difference for the duration of the 18-month contract.

My wife's Tesco credit card statement is sent to her on the fourth of each month but gets to us in the middle of the month.

I pay by cheque into the bank immediately in full and on time. In the meantime, Tesco has added the next month's payments to the credit card.

This occasionally pushes us over our credit limit, for which we're charged £12. This is a large sum for an 87-year-old pensioner to pay for a minor error. We spend about £2,000 a month on the card, mainly in Tesco.

Tesco customer services are most unhelpful. I have written and spoken to them, but the computer is king and they will not compromise.

J. R., High Wycombe.

This is a simple enough problem and I am surprised Tesco customer services did not resolve it. The most obvious option would be to raise your credit limit a little.

You have a good payment record so there's no reason why Tesco should not have offered this.

Tesco says it offers online banking and mobile phone apps which allow customers to make payments more swiftly.

But at 87 I doubt this would be your chosen method of banking.

You could make a phone payment using your debit card, depending on how happy you are with paying by phone.

I would suggest you do what I do and set up a direct debit from your bank account to pay the card bill in full every month.

Some people are leery about doing this as they wish to check the bill, but the fact is that if anything is wrong on your card statement you can dispute it.

Tesco has refunded your fees and added £25 as a goodwill gesture, recognising your loyalty as customers.

*** 

My dad took an annuity with ReAssure around 1990 when £100,000 bought an annual income of £14,000. 

As a heavy smoker and regular drinker aged 66, he was probably seen as a favourable risk.

He went on to live for another 25 years. On his 90th birthday card we had a cartoon of a bearded, manacled prisoner hanging from a cell wall with a sign saying 'Dad's actuary'.

After he died the policy reverted to my mother. She then received an annual income of £5,500 and went on to live another five years to the age of 96, having only given up smoking aged 87. She died on February 29. We informed ReAssure three days later.

The firm replied informing us that her payment had been made on March 1 and it did not plan to recover the funds. Well done ReAssure, you've been great.

A. N., Highworth.

What an uplifting letter for these dark times. While I send my commiserations, I think in your case it is a question of celebrating your parents' full lives.

If your dad received the full £14,000 a year then over 25 years he would have drawn £350,000, after which your mother received another £27,500. 

That's £377,500 in total, which isn't bad for a £100,000 investment. I echo you in saying: 'Well done ReAssure'.

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