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In October last year I organized a trip to Venice for members of our running club. Twenty-one of the group were flying back with BA to Gatwick on October 23, but the flight was delayed by more than three hours, entitling them to statutory compensation of £220 each.
Interestingly, although 19 members of the group received their payment, two have been repeatedly told that they are not entitled to receive it. Can you help resolve this?
MG, Olney, Bucks.
One reader was left confused when 19 of his group received £220 for the delay – but two of them did not.
Sally Hamilton responds: What should have been a quick and easy compensation claim turned a sprint into a marathon for two of his club members.
You described your wonderful four-night visit to the city, in which some members participated in a 10K race and others in a half marathon, and they all did a lot of sightseeing and shopping in between.
Despite the success of the trip, the couple ignored for compensation felt a little put off by BA’s high-handed approach. I understand clearly. It made no sense for BA to hand out £220 each to 19 of his group but reject the claims of the remaining two.
European Union rules say flights of less than 1,500 kilometers arriving in the UK from a European country and delayed by three hours or more mean passengers are entitled to compensation of £220 each.
Airlines can avoid paying if a delay is due to “extraordinary circumstances” such as bad weather, strikes or traffic control restrictions.
In its response to the appeal of its fellow racers, BA said that on the day of the group’s return from Venice the flight was delayed due to Greek military exercises that led to restrictions on air traffic control over the continent, something beyond its control. This had affected the arrival time of incoming flights and the knock-on effect of their group’s delay.
If this were the case, then why did 19 of his fellow passengers receive compensation, I asked BA, pointing out the obvious contradiction.
After a few days of investigation, the airline came back and repeated the explanation that the payment was not due to the two women due to the Greek military maneuvers.
His justification was that information about the air traffic control delay had not been uploaded to BA’s computer system when his group’s core group applied for compensation, allowing his claims to cross the line.
It would appear that the remaining members had been slower with their requests, at which point the information had updated and caused the computer to say “no.”
After some persuading from me about the unfairness of this scenario, BA agreed that, as a gesture of goodwill, it would pay the excluded members the money (a total of £440) upon receipt of their booking details. Very good.
Water company says my wife’s coffee owes it £2,700
My wife runs a small cafe in south London. It has two water suppliers: on the ground floor, Clear Business and on the first floor, Castle Water, which took over Thames Water’s commercial water supply in 2017.
The bill for the downstairs flat, which is mainly for making coffee and washing up, is around £700 a year, paid by direct debit.
Upstairs there was, until 2018, only one bathroom which cost £70 a year. When a water heater, sink and cooker were added to improve the cafe’s food offering, the bill rose to £280 a year, paid by direct debit at £24 a month. The last time Castle Water took a meter reading was in the spring of 2019.
A bill dated May 22 last year shows that consumption and payments were aligned, with a small credit surplus. He also said Castle would continue to collect £23.92 via direct debit each month. But further down this bill appeared a terrifying sum suggesting he owed almost £2,700 in water supply, sewerage and ongoing charges, plus VAT and, on August 30, without warning, Castle charged £700 . Please help.
Sally Hamilton responds: He told me his wife panicked when she saw the £700 disappear from her account and immediately remembered the direct debit. If she hadn’t done it, she wouldn’t have had money to pay the staff’s salaries.
She was confused by the size of the sum, and read the water meter that day, and again about three weeks later, and the figures taken suggested that the cafe’s water consumption was around £1 a day.
He considered that even if water consumption had been underestimated over the previous four years, the accumulated debt would be half of what Castle Water claimed.
During Covid, the cafe didn’t even work for three months, so there was no consumption.
A few weeks after his wife remembered the direct debit, Castle Water informed him that the problem had been passed to the disconnection team and the “debt” had been handed over to collections company Marston.
This was despite you and your wife contacting Castle Water with your defense that consumption could not be as high as you had calculated. The company refused to accept that it had not carried out regular readings or sent alerts that this debt was accumulating.
When you and your wife challenged the bill, suggesting inaccuracies in the amounts, she stood firm and insisted that you pay half of the balance due immediately and spread the cost of the other half over a few months.
As I seemed to be swimming against the current with Castle Water customer service and being told I was not in a position to pay almost £1,350 in the blink of an eye, I stepped in to ask the company to check if anything had gone wrong Seriously bad.
Castle Water agreed to investigate immediately and just days later returned and admitted there had been a problem with a historical meter reading carried out by its predecessor, Thames Water, in 2019, which had fallen short of its bill calculations.
The company agreed to cancel the original £2,700 invoice, cancel the debt collectors’ proceedings and issue an updated estimate of costs, which it said would be “significantly lower”.
The company said it had attempted to read its meter in the past but admitted it had difficulty finding the device and had asked Thames Water to come to the cafe to locate it and update Castle Water with the location information.
Finally he did it.
The firm says it generally aims to arrange in-person meter checks twice a year, but said that since it’s on the property, it “encourages” you and your wife to provide your own readings. Castle Water eventually produced a more realistic and manageable total of £1,000, which you mutually agreed to pay, at the rate of £180 per month by standing order.
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