Belfast Telegraph

Why did my tickets get cheaper after booking?

Virgin Trains advises customers to book 12 weeks in advance to obtain the lowest fares. But when I followed this advice, I ended up worse off. I am running the Edinburgh marathon in May. So I booked a one-way ticket from Manchester to Edinburgh on May 26 as soon as the 12-week booking window opened on February 25. This cost me £59.90, plus £1 booking fee. On March 13 I booked another train journey and found the journey I had previously booked now cost £25. KM

It seems that you booked too soon - before the low-priced advance tickets became available. The next time you travel by train you should check the exact date on which the lowest-price tickets go on sale. A spokesman for Virgin Trains explains: "The booking was actually made 13 weeks out from date of travel, which is why no advance tickets were offered. The customer has purchased an anytime single ticket, which is available for travel on all services on the Manchester-Edinburgh route on that day. Reservations cannot be made more than 12 weeks before travel, although the fully-flexible tickets can be bought. One further clarification, the customer refers to a £1 booking fee. There are no booking fees, or indeed credit/debit card fees, charged when making bookings via the Virgin Trains website. The £1 referred to is the optional charge for the fulfilment of tickets by post. There are no charges applied for e-fulfilment, or for collection from fast ticket machines at stations."

My husband checked his bank statement for January and February and found a debit for £499.99. He had no knowledge of this, so contacted his bank, Lloyds TSB. They confirmed that a transaction had been made with his PIN number and that it was to do with a DIY purchase. My husband thinks it could be a genuine mistake - about that time he bought a tin of paint at a DIY shop, priced at £4.99. At the bank's encouragement, he has been into the shop three times and got nowhere. But he does not know if it actually is this shop that put through this transaction as Lloyds will not give him any further information. The DIY retailer that Lloyds seemed to be pointing him towards is a tiny shop, whose total stock would not be worth £499. My husband hasn't got his receipt and it would be helpful if he put his spectacles on to do these transactions! LM

Your husband seems a bit absent-minded and, as you say, it would be sensible if he made sure he could see properly when approving transactions in shops. The explanation is probably that the transaction value was entered wrongly and your husband failed to spot this. But the onus for correcting this was with your husband at the point of sale. The fact that your husband has not kept the transaction receipt makes resolving the problem even more difficult. Lloyds TSB has agreed to credit your husband's account with the money, but this will again be debited against his account if the retailer insists the transaction was genuine.

A spokesman for Lloyds TSB explains: "We are sorry to learn that (the reader) had an issue with regard to a payment on his account. I can confirm that our records for a transaction will show only the retailer business and therefore this is all the information we are able to provide on inquiry. Where a transaction has been recognised by the customer and has been verified using a personal identification number, we cannot consider it to be fraudulent. In such circumstances we are unable to offer a refund and (can only) recommend a customer contacts the retailer in question. We can attempt to raise a charge-back for the customer - which will mean the transaction is refunded to their account - and we have done this for (the reader) on this occasion. However, if the retailer comes back to say they believe the item was genuine, we are required to debit the money from the customer's account. In these circumstances we would again urge the customer to contact the retailer."

I acquired a Post Office Travel Money Card and preloaded it with euros to the value of £100. I wanted this as an emergency back-up for a trip abroad last year. I didn't use the card on that occasion and before going to France in February this year, I topped up the card to £600. I intended to use this as my sole source of cash during my week's holiday. But in France none of the ATMs would accept the card. I knew I was using the correct PIN and that the card had been activated. I was forced to withdraw cash from my bank account, for which I was charged.

On my return home, I tried to contact the Post Office by phone, but the automated system would not allow me access on the grounds that some details I inputted were wrong. I then complained by email and the Post Office phoned me. They acknowledged that a mistake had been made, apologised and agreed to close the account. I expected to receive a cheque for £600 and, I hoped, something extra in compensation. That was six weeks ago and I have heard nothing more. I have sent two further emails. OM

The Post Office apologises and has now fully refunded the £600, plus an extra £100 as an apology for your inconvenience. A spokeswoman says: "We are always concerned to hear if a customer has experienced any problems with one of our services. The Post Office Travel Money Card is a secure and convenient way for customers to purchase their travel cash. We are very sorry to hear of the problems experienced by (the reader) and are currently investigating the cause."