United Kingdom

ASK TONY: Why did it take Aviva nine months to get me back on my bike?

last March, I was driving with my e-bike attached to the bicycle rack. A vehicle pulled across in front of me, forcing me to brake. The driver behind ran into my car, causing extensive damage.

I reported the accident to my insurer, Aviva. 

The other driver admitted liability. Aviva advised that the claim for the damage to the e-bike and rack should be sent to solicitors Irwin Mitchell, which handled its third-party claims.

Backpedalling: A reader was left waiting nine months for insurer Aviva to replace his electric bike that was destroyed in a car crash

I am still awaiting payment. The delays have been blamed on the pandemic. All that is required is a settlement of £514.99 for a new rack, and £2,950 for the e-bike.

G. B., Budleigh Salterton, Devon.

Tony Hazell replies: You hoped your undisputed claim would be settled quickly. But the only thing some insurance companies do swiftly is put up premiums.

Aviva and Irwin Mitchell say they were working on your behalf behind the scenes. Axa was the insurer for the other driver, and Irwin Mitchell says it only coughed up when threatened with litigation.

An Aviva spokesman apologises for the delay and tells me: ‘There was a delay with the other insurer making the payment, despite having admitted liability for the accident at an early stage. However, the payment has now been made by the other insurer to our customer following the prospect of legal proceedings.’

An Irwin Mitchell spokesman apologises, saying: ‘The other insurer did not respond to repeated chases for payment over several months.’

Axa tells a different story. It apologises but says it was hampered due to delays in receiving documentation it requested. This included clarification of the size of the claim, which it says was not supplied until July 21, and images of the damage, which it says it never received.

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An Axa spokesman says: ‘We responded swiftly to all correspondence, but there were delays in providing the information we needed to verify the claim. We’ve paid in order to close the claim.’

You gave me a copy of the email you sent to Irwin Mitchell on March 31 with images of the damage. Aviva has added a £50 to your payment as a gesture of goodwill, and Irwin Mitchell made an ex gratia £100 payment.

How can I track down an old building society account?

My wife found an old Cheltenham & Gloucester passbook showing a balance of £4,107. We visited the linked address in Solihull, where there is now a TSB branch, and were told C&G had been taken over by Lloyds in 1995. 

In 2013, the branches were rebranded TSB.

The staff sent us to the nearest Lloyds branch. 

Lloyds said the account no longer existed and sent us back to TSB where staff told us to visit mylostaccount.org.uk. This site could not find our account.

J. D., Solihull, W. Mids.

Lloyds has, at my behest, looked again. Your account was closed and £4,310.91 was transferred to Alliance & Leicester on June 6, 2008. 

Alliance & Leicester was taken over by Santander later that year. You tell me you are happy to take it from here.

Straight to the point 

I paid £40.10 for an eTwist hairdryer from Amazon but was sent a £15 version. I sent it back but it never arrived. I was only able to claim for the value of the parcel with Royal Mail.

C. H., Lancashire.

Royal Mail agreed to cover the cost of the more expensive item plus postage. Amazon has also refunded you in full and given you a gift voucher. 

You tried to return the sum Royal Mail offered you but it told you not to worry. You say you will use the money to buy goods for a local food bank.

*** 

My wife’s easyJet flight to Belfast was cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Her travel agent XL Escapes promised to refund her £141.46 within ten working days but it’s been six months and it hasn’t appeared.

W. P., by email.

EasyJet says your wife requested a voucher in June, which it has offered to swap for cash. This was paid to the agent, which deducted an admin fee of around £40.

*** 

When I rang British Gas there was an automated message saying it is not answering calls. I tried to email but was told it does not reply to emails, either.

R. C., Derbyshire.

The firm thinks you heard a message saying that it is prioritising emergency support for vulnerable customers. 

Those who hold can still speak to someone. British Gas does not have a dedicated email address for complaints.

*** 

I can’t use my Sainsbury’s gift cards online. Can you help?

P. L., Norfolk.

Sainsbury’s confirmed you can only use its gift cards in store. They expire after two years.

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