Tony Hetherington is the star investigator for the Financial Mail on Sunday, fighting readers’ corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have run out of money. Find out how to contact him below.
JF writes: I am sending you a copy of a county court action against Wizz Air UK Limited, which was sent to your registered office at Luton Airport.
He ignored the claim and did not respond to the court, so a judgment was given against the airline for £1,542.68.
However, the company has brushed this off as well, saying it has no UK presence.
Flight risk: Wizz Air UK ignored the claim and did not respond to the court so a judgment was given against the airline for £1,542.68
Tony Hetherington replies: For an airline that feels capable of turning its back on a court ruling by saying it has no presence in this country, Wizz Air UK does a pretty poor job of hiding itself. The UK carrier was established in 2017 as a branch of the original Wizz Air in Hungary. The ultimate parent company is Jersey-registered Wizz Air Holdings, whose shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
The group has more than 170 Airbus aircraft, 17 of which belong to Wizz Air UK. This airline without a presence even receives publicity in the UK. In August, figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority showed it was the worst airline of all for flight departure delays. It also grabbed headlines in June when it encouraged its employees to work even when fatigued so Wizz could avoid flight cancellations.
It was a cancellation that led you to sue Wizz. You and a friend were booked to fly from Gatwick to Faro in Portugal. Wizz canceled his flight just three hours in advance, when he was already on his way to the airport. He was not offered seats on any alternative flights, so he rebooked with a different airline and paid everything again.
After you won, Wizz didn’t pay, so you put the matter in the hands of the court bailiffs. They couldn’t collect a penny and told him “Wizz Air has no staff, offices or assets at London Luton Airport”.
I thought maybe the bailiffs had been going after the wrong company, even though the recent airline letter I sent you is headed Wizz Air UK Limited. Then I did some research and the results are outrageous.
I checked to see if anyone else had sued Wizz Air UK and won but not been paid. Working backwards, I found one judgment for £1,009 on October 5, and then two on October 3, one for £1,280 and one for £913. Then more, and more, and more until I was looking at a list covering 111 pages. In total, I found 456 county court judgments against Wizz Air UK. He had paid for 55 of these, leaving 401 dissatisfied.
I asked the company to explain its failure to pay and its apparent refusal to obey hundreds of other court orders. Should passengers worry? Is Wizz just ignoring payment orders or should customers worry that he just doesn’t have the cash? Just as bad, is this the deliberate policy of the airline? The group’s recent accounts showed it lost around £336m last year and had loans totaling £4bn.
The questions are piling up, but Wizz Air UK couldn’t answer a single one. He confirmed that he received my questions. He said he would provide answers. But it was not like that. I wonder how long the Civil Aviation Authority will be happy to let you fly in and out of UK airports, operating as a British company, while ignoring the British courts. Passengers can start voting feet first.
Two year license delay
Ms MG writes: I read with interest your recent article on DVLA delays involving driver’s licenses for people with a medical condition.
I have been trying to get a renewal for a long time and now he asks people not to contact him for an update.
MG has been trying to get a renewal for a long time and DVLA is now asking people not to contact him for an update.
Tony Hetherington replies: He told me that he originally tried to renew his license online two years ago, but had problems with the DVLA website.
The government then announced that due to the pandemic, licenses expiring in 2020 would be automatically extended by 11 months. Confusingly, however, a letter from the DVLA in July 2021 told him that his license was no longer valid, so he applied for a new one.
This must have been frustrating, but even worse, in August of this year he was told that his 2021 application had run out of time and he would have to start over. I suspect this tip was computer generated and no one had looked at the bottom. I contacted the DVLA for comment and the staff there quickly issued his new license.
He told me that he is back to normal hours for handling requests, except for some medical cases.
Nationwide own goal
MK writes: Nationwide decided it was going to close all Treasurer’s Trust accounts because, it said, most were dormant.
This was not the case with the club that I run for a group of soccer fans. I deposited about £2,500 over the summer, which brought our credit balance to about £4,300.
Nationwide was supposed to give a 90-day notice of closure, but broke this rule.
Nationwide decided it was going to close all Treasurer’s Trust accounts because, it said, most were dormant.
Tony Hetherington replies: Normally, Nationwide was only required to give you a 60-day notice of closure, though it temporarily extended it to 90 days during the pandemic.
The bottom line, though, is that banks and building societies are not obligated to deal with any customers they don’t want, or to continue to offer any accounts or other services they decide to close.
Where Nationwide really made a mistake was by locking her account before she had fully emptied it. He opened a bank account elsewhere and transferred all but £1 from Nationwide, but when he went to a branch to withdraw that last £1, he was told he had to fill out a withdrawal form.
He had already done so, but the branch was unable to reach the correct department on the phone, so he refused to leave him his £1.
Nationwide told me, ‘The account has now been closed and we have contacted our member to apologize for the frustration caused.’
You now have your £1, plus 13p interest and £25 by way of apology for the inconvenience.
If you believe you are the victim of financial crime, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Due to the high volume of inquiries, personal answers cannot be given. Send only copies of the original documents, which we regret that we cannot return.
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