Belfast Telegraph

West Coast road trip leaves big dent in student's pocket

By Paul Gosling

Question: After finishing studying in the US I treated myself to a West Coast road trip, hiring a car from Hertz at Los Angeles airport. I paid $117 (£76) for rental car protection and $168.35 (£109) as a liability insurance supplement.

At Huntington Beach I was hit from behind while stationary at a red light. I immediately notified the police, obtained a witness statement confirming I was not at fault and notified Hertz within an hour of the incident. The rear bumper was dented and there were a few scratches.

I continued on my trip, returning the car at Los Angeles, where Hertz said it would be in touch. Within 24 hours of flying out of Los Angeles, Hertz charged my credit card £252.38 with no warning or explanation. I then received a letter from Hertz saying that, as I was not at fault, it would claim against the person who hit me, but if unsuccessful it would charge me for damage.

I have now received a letter saying it was unable to pursue the claim with the other person, so it is now charging me $941.31 (£610) to "reimburse the balance of the claim" - this for a small dent is excessive. I have emailed the "recovery specialist" at Hertz twice with no reply.

My memories of a Californian road trip have been soured by the whole experience.

Answer: Hertz has investigated the incident more thoroughly. As a result, it located the insurance details of the other driver and is directly pursuing them for recovery of the costs of the damage.

It has therefore dropped its claim for the $941.31. Hertz says the £252.38 taken from your credit card was for additional charges you agreed to and was unrelated to the accident. Hertz has also now sent you a $50 gift voucher as a goodwill gesture.

Question: My wife and I invested a large sum in a fixed-term deposit account with the Clydesdale Bank, commencing on November 28, 2008 and maturing on November 28, 2011.

We received a statement of credit interest paid and income tax deduction in a letter dated June 8 this year, but for the period April 6, 2009 to April 5, 2010.

I wrote to Clydesdale asking for details of interest paid between November 28, 2008 and April 6, 2009. After nearly a month, I had not received a response, so I wrote again. To my astonishment, Clydesdale wrote in July stating it had commenced putting my "complaint" through its complaints procedure.

On August 7, 2010 a second letter arrived from Clydesdale saying that its investigation of my complaint was ongoing. But I am still waiting for a reply to my original letter of June 16.

Answer: Clydesdale treated your second letter requesting basic information as a letter of complaint. This meant that the bank failed to address your request.

Clydesdale accepts it did not handle your correspondence appropriately, apologises and will pay £50 as a goodwill gesture.

Question: I have two accounts with Dunbar Bank. In April, Dunbar suggested that to obtain a higher rate of interest I should close one account and transfer the balance to the other account with an additional deposit of more than £3,000.

I did as requested. Two months later I checked on the state of the account to find that the transaction had fallen through because of "insufficient funds".

Dunbar had forgotten to take into account a monthly direct debit. Why did it not simply phone me for another cheque? The charming manager explained that it had "internal difficulties".

Answer: Dunbar Bank puts forward a different explanation for the problem. It explains that you have two accounts with the bank: one is a term deposit paying 2.5% and the second is an easy-access account paying 0.5% below base rate - which means nothing at present.

In order to improve the rate of interest paid on your funds, you were going to top up the main account as you indicate. But Dunbar says that this was agreed on April 20, yet you only paid the money into the account on June 2. By that time other transactions had taken place, bringing the balance below the necessary £5,000 to take advantage of the higher interest rate on offer.

To make matters worse, by the time you attempted to resolve the matter - on July 14 - Dunbar had ceased offering new higher-rate deposit accounts. Dunbar reports that it had, prior to this, attempted to explain the situation to you, but had been unable to contact you.

A spokeswoman for the bank says: "It seems to be a simple case of bad timing, but I can understand that makes it no less frustrating for [the reader] to have missed the term deposit rate.

"We are sorry that we couldn't act on her instruction and that we didn't have the foresight to alert her to the impact of future payments out of the easy access account."

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