I hope you can help me obtain a refund from Imagine Cruising after health problems prevented my wife and I from travelling to Australia for a reunion with friends in Perth.
This was supposed to be followed by a trip on the Indian Pacific train to Sydney, then a cruise around New Zealand.
When we booked the £21,000 holiday in May 2020, with a deposit of £7,562, we were fit, well and fully covered by a travel policy from AXA through my former employer.
Deposit: A couple have been left 7,500 out of pocket after they were forced to cancel a £21,000 cruise holiday
Covid intervened, and Imagine offered to delay the holiday by a year.
Then Covid intervened again and it was agreed to delay the booking by another year, to November 2022.
Meanwhile, AXA stopped providing travel insurance, so we had to find another insurer, which we did. But unlike our AXA policy, it would not cover pre-existing medical conditions.
In April this year, my annual scan and biopsy for prostate cancer revealed that an original diagnosis, in 2018, of low-grade and non-aggressive cancer, had changed, with the cancer becoming aggressive and starting to spread. I was given a date in July for the removal of my prostate.
Around the same time, my wife required a full hip replacement.
As both operations require months of recovery, we decided it was not possible to go on our trip and decided not to pay the balance. But we were shocked when Imagine refused to refund our deposit.
When we booked the holiday we were fit and fully covered with travel insurance. It was not our doing that AXA discontinued cover. We cannot afford so much money.
D. M., Scarborough.
Sally Hamilton replies: You and your wife have certainly hit rough waters with your health recently.
You hoped Imagine Cruising would be more understanding about your situation, especially when you explained that you took out comprehensive cover at the start of the booking process and it wasn’t your fault it could not continue.
Beware scammers posing as family and friends. TSB has reported a 58 per cent increase in so-called ‘mum and dad’ scams since last year.
Crooks will typically use social media apps — usually WhatsApp — to impersonate loved ones who claim they urgently need cash to cover bills or other expenses.
Victims typically receive a message from a new number alongside a plausible story for why it has changed.
After striking up conversation, an emotive request for payment is then sent through — made more believable and pressing due to the current economic climate.
TSB says the average victim lost £1,500. But in one recent case, a scammer tried to steal £9,500.
Had it not been for Covid, your trip would have gone ahead on the planned date, before you and your wife’s health began to fail.
Moving the trip yet again, which Imagine did offer to do, was clearly not a suitable option.
Your cancer operation (from which you are now slowly recovering) and your wife’s hip replacement are serious procedures for people in their 70s like you.
I asked Imagine if it would reconsider its decision to decline the refund. The spokesperson explained the cancellation fees you faced reflected the charges that have been imposed on the firm by its own suppliers, including the cruise line, airline, train operator and other providers.
‘Normally, these losses would be covered by the customers’ insurance, but I understand the unique situation these customers find themselves in,’ she told me, and went off to investigate your case.
Later that day, she returned with the splendid news that Imagine had decided to arrange a full refund as a ‘gesture of goodwill’.
She added: ‘The processes we follow can sometimes be complex, depending on individual itineraries and suppliers involved.
‘In this instance, the processes did not fully allow for (these customers’) specific and exceptional circumstances to be adequately considered.’
You were both ‘over the moon’ at this news and, as a thank you for my involvement, have donated a portion of the refund to your local Macmillan Cancer Support. I wish you both a speedy recovery.
Straight to the point
I received an email purporting to be from TV Licensing, claiming my licence is due for renewal. I know scammers often pose as this body, so how can I tell whether it is legitimate?
TV Licensing has confirmed that the email you received is genuine, but it was sensible to check. If you have any doubts in the future, sign in to your account online through (tvlicensing.co.uk), or call 0300 303 9695.
My 95-year-old mother was given several Sainsbury’s gift cards before the Coronavirus pandemic.
Because she was shielding, due to her age, she was unable to use them and they have expired. Sainsbury’s has said it will not extend the date on expired gift cards.
J.D., via email.
Sainsbury’s agreed to reconsider your case and has now refunded you the full amount as a gesture of goodwill.
I had a dispute with Sky after falling behind on four mobile phone bills during the pandemic.
My complaint to the Financial Ombudsman was upheld and Sky was told to remove any black marks from my credit file. But these have reappeared.
D.B., Pontwalby, Neath.
Sky claims this can sometimes happen. It has now removed them and added a special instruction to your file to ensure that they do not pop up again.
A friend paid £48 into my old PayPal account, but I no longer have the login details and can’t change the password because it is linked to an old phone number. I am struggling to get through to PayPal.
H.K, via email.
PayPal has now helped you reset your account details so that you can log in and retrieve your cash.
Can’t claim my German pension
In the 1980s, I worked as a translator in the legal department of a supermarket group in Germany and paid into that country’s state pension scheme.
On applying for my British state pension earlier this year, I completed a form that asked if I had ever worked overseas.
I gave details of my stint in Germany. I then received forms from the German pension authorities, confirming I was entitled to a pension from them.
As requested, I provided details of my UK bank account into which the pension is to be paid.
The form required a stamp from my bank, HSBC (I’ve been a customer for 22 years), to confirm I hold this account.
When I requested it be stamped — it is in English as well as German — the cashier said it cannot stamp a document not generated by HSBC. A manager confirmed this is company policy due to fraud.
I explained this to the German authorities, who confirmed that they will not accept the form unless stamped by the receiving bank, also to avoid fraud. I have reached stalemate and am unable to receive my pension.
M. S., Monmouthshire
Pension problems: Our reader has been trying to claim a German pension, but has run into trouble trying to get the form rubber stamped by her UK bank
Sally Hamilton replies: You are in a Catch-22 situation. The German pension authorities won’t issue your pension without a stamped form due to the risk of fraud, and HSBC won’t stamp the form for the same reason.
I asked HSBC to help resolve your conundrum. It apologised and suggested it could issue you with a letter instead.
A spokesman says: ‘Fraudsters are criminals who use techniques to dupe people and steal money, and there is a real risk of a replica stamp being used on documents they have created to suggest they are ‘true and original’.
‘We have seen this in the past. As such, this is not a service we have provided for well over a decade. The policy protects consumers and businesses who may be the target of fraud, as well as protecting the bank and its employees.’
Sadly, the promise of a letter was not enough for the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund (equivalent of our Department for Work and Pensions), which still demanded a stamp. In the end, HSBC agreed to stamp your form, despite its strict rules. It said it was pleased to have ‘found a solution’.
Your endeavours to secure your German pension continued, however. The pensions officials also require evidence of your attendance at Leeds University, from where you graduated with a degree in German in 1978. You finally received this paperwork last week and posted it off.
You don’t expect a huge boost to your income but in the current climate, every little helps.
- Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email firstname.lastname@example.org — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.