Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Insurance provider’s hidden clauses left me unprotected

Always check the excess on a travel insurance policy to ensure you are not left out of pocket

Question : I purchased annual travel insurance through Moneysupermarket.com with TIC insurers. At no time did Moneysupermarket.com inform me that there was an excess payable of £300.

When I called TIC, I was informed that I would not be able to claim for a cancelled holiday — due to my mother having had a stroke — unless a £300 excess was paid. It would not be worth my while claiming as I would receive nothing: the cost of the week was £200. The adviser at TIC told me the fault lies with Moneysupermarket.com, which is not informing customers of the excess.

Answer: A spokesman for Moneysupermarket.com says: “The crux of the complaint is regarding the display of the excess on the policy, which [the reader] says we never displayed when she purchased the policy. We would categorically dispute this.” Consumers are provided with detailed policy information before payment, says the spokesman, who adds that it is not possible to purchase a policy without viewing the policy details page. “Also, before completing any purchase, customers are asked to confirm that they have read the policy documentation; this document also contains all levels of cover, excesses and policy detail,” the spokesman says.

However, despite denying it has done anything wrong, Moneysupermarket.com is refunding your insurance premium as a goodwill gesture as you are a long-standing customer.

It has also redesigned its travel insurance website since your purchase to provide information to consumers more clearly. The company tells us that your holiday provider has agreed to refund most of the costs of your forfeited holiday, charging you only £75 for the cancellation.

Question: I was interested in the experience of your reader DM (Questions of Cash, 31 July), who was unable to close an account held with Barclays because the signature was apparently not consistent with the version held in the bank's records.

My wife and I both had Barclays' MoreForMore savings accounts. After a year, the interest rate was so puny that we each wrote a letter asking for our accounts to be closed.

We both got letters in response saying that the accounts couldn't be closed as the signatures didn't match the bank's records and could we come in to the local branch, bringing ID.

We've both been at the same branch of Barclays since 1977 and our signatures have not changed over that period. The signature at the bottom of the letter was an indecipherable scrawl, pp ‘Closed Accounts Team’.

Being a cynic and a retired member of Barclays' staff, I assumed that it was a ruse to get people into the branch to sell them products. When I went to the branch, a pleasant young man checked my signature online and found nothing wrong.

He then attempted to get hold of the Closed Accounts Team. After hanging on the phone for an uncomfortably long time, he was finally cut off. He closed the account on the spot — and tried to get me to upgrade my current account. My wife went in about a month later, and again, there was no problem with her signature held online.

Answer: This little mystery is now solved thanks to your pointing us a little more clearly in the right direction with Barclays. When the bank received your request to close your savings account, the bank checked your signature with other records specific to this account. But your signature was not held on the savings account records, and for reasons known only to the ‘closed accounts team’, it failed to compare your signature with the records on your current account. It instead wrote saying that your signature did not match its records — and the same with your wife.

Barclays accepts its current-account records should also be checked — and says that its staff are being sent for training to ensure in future this will happen. You say that your objective was not to obtain compensation, but to get procedures changed; you have achieved your objective.

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