Thursday 22 August 2019

Can I get my money back after ATM mix-up in Spain?

Your questions answered

'Under the Central Bank of Ireland's consumer protection code, all banks must have a complaints handling procedure in place, and issue you with a final response to your complaint within 40 days' (stock photo)
'Under the Central Bank of Ireland's consumer protection code, all banks must have a complaints handling procedure in place, and issue you with a final response to your complaint within 40 days' (stock photo)

Áine Carroll

Q. I was on holiday in Spain last February. I went to a Spanish bank to withdraw €500 on a Friday night. On my first attempt, in error, I pressed 'no' instead of 'yes' when I was asked if I would pay €1.80 for the withdrawal. I tried again, got beyond that point, but my card was returned with no cash and a message instructing me to contact my bank.

The following Monday morning, I noticed that my account had been debited €501.80. I called to the Spanish bank, and explained the situation. The teller told me not to worry and that my money would be returned to me within three to five working days.

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I went to the bank again on Wednesday and met a different teller, who told me it was my card's fault and to contact my own bank.

I contacted my own bank and my money was refunded a week later. However, I had the money debited from my account in late April, as the Spanish bank said its ATM was not balanced, and I was sent a copy of its audit trail.

I wrote to my bank, and asked it to ask the Spanish bank to check its CCTV footage as it would show quite clearly that I got no money. I got a response from my bank saying it would do this, but that it could take up to 45 days to get a response.

The 45 days and more passed, so I rang my bank and was advised that it couldn't ask the Spanish bank to check CCTV footage, and that there was nothing else it could do about the matter. I am still down €501.80. Do you know of anything else I can do to see if I can get my money back, or even an explanation as to why CCTV footage can't be inspected?

John, Dublin 6

A. It is difficult to be in the middle in situations like this. As your closest relationship is with your own bank, you should continue to communicate with it directly to resolve your issue.

At this point, your next step should be to go through your bank's complaints procedure. Details of a bank's complaints procedure are usually on its website or, alternatively, you can request the information in a branch.

Under the Central Bank of Ireland's consumer protection code, all banks must have a complaints handling procedure in place, and issue you with a final response to your complaint within 40 days.

If you are dissatisfied with the final response from your bank, you could consider escalating the complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO).

The FSPO is an independent officer who deals with unresolved complaints between financial service providers and consumers. It is a free service and more information is available at fspo.ie.

TV subscription woes

Q. I contacted my TV service provider earlier this year to cancel my subscription fully, as I could not afford it. My bill was debited monthly in advance on the 28th of each month. So I phoned my TV provider on February 1 to notify it of my intention to cancel from the end of February - giving one month's notice. I received a confirmation email shortly afterwards to say that my package would end on March 5. However, on February 28, the provider again debited my account. When I finally managed to speak to one of its representatives about this deduction, I was assured that I would be refunded the balance of my deduction that applied to the period paid for beyond the expiry date. This equates to a period of 26 days. To date, I have received no refund and when I tried to access my account online, I was blocked out. How can I get the refund that is due to me?

Declan, Co Offaly

A. When you sign up to a service, you agree to the provider's terms and conditions (T&Cs). Provided you followed the cancellation procedure as outlined in the T&Cs, your service should have concluded on March 5 - as outlined in your email.

As this was not the case, you should review the terms of service in your contract to see what they say about the debiting of accounts - and the refunds of overpayments.

Following this, if you do not think that the service provider is acting within its own terms of service, you should make a complaint in writing and request a refund.

Most service providers have a complaints process that you can follow and this should be outlined on its website.

If you do not receive a refund from the service provider, you could contact your bank to request a refund of the direct debit. Under the Single European Payment Area regulations, you can request a refund of a direct debit from your bank on a 'no questions asked' basis for up to eight weeks after the money was taken from your account.

You have up to 13 months after the payment was made to request a refund - however, the refund is not guaranteed more than eight weeks after the money is taken from your account.

If you are still unsuccessful, you could consider using the Small Claims Procedure. However, an application to the small claims court will cost €25 and this will not be reimbursed.

Hairdresser let-down

Q. During a regular hair colouring appointment, my hairdresser left the dye on for too long and my hair was badly damaged. It is now breaking off and falling out. I am really embarrassed about how I look and have had to pay for expensive treatments and extensions to cover the damage. Can I ask the salon to cover these extra costs?

Sheila, Co Kildare

A. Under sale of goods and services legislation, when you pay for a service to be carried out, you have the right to expect that it is provided with proper care and attention; that the business providing the service has the appropriate skills; any materials used in the work are sound and fit for their purpose; and also that any goods supplied as part of the service should be of acceptable quality.

If a service is not carried out with the proper care and attention, or the necessary skills, you are entitled to return to the business and request that it either fixes the issue or that it provides a full or partial refund.

As the hairdresser has not returned your calls, I would suggest that you put a complaint in writing, outlining your rights and how you would like the issue to be resolved. There is practical information available on the CCPC's website (ccpc.ie) about your rights in this situation, and template letters to guide you when making a complaint.

Following your complaint, if the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, you could consider making a claim through the Small Claims Procedure. This is a fast and effective way to resolve a complaint, and is designed to deal with consumer claims of up to €2,000.

Áine Carroll is director of communications and policy with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Email your questions to  lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions,  Sunday Independent Business, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.

While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert for your query, this column is not intended to replace professional advice.

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