Unhappy customers who are tired of waiting for months to receive refunds are threatening stubborn companies with legal action.
Tens of thousands of people are thought to have been denied or made to wait for refunds thanks to disruption caused by the pandemic.
But now Money Mail readers are using the small claims court, where fees start from just £25, to win their cash back. It comes after we reported how Pam Watts, 61, won £2,112 from British Airways after it cancelled her return flight without telling her. The story prompted readers to get in touch with their own small claims successes.
Legal eagles: Readers are using the small claims court, where fees start from just £25, to win their cash back
Former Royal Marine Duncan Christie-Miller spent four months chasing a refund for a two-week cruise to Alaska and Japan with his wife Mavis, 76. Duncan, also 76, who lives in Teddington, South-West London, first contacted Imagine Cruising for a refund of his £3,802 deposit in May, after the September trip was cancelled. He was told he would be refunded, but was given no indication of when.
He knew that anyone who booked a cruise lasting longer than 24 hours was legally entitled to a refund within 14 days. So, after hearing nothing, he sent a letter to the firm’s offices in Swindon.
But still the refund did not arrive. Eventually Duncan, who runs a remote working consultancy business, paid £185 to lodge a court claim. The next day, Imagine Cruising rang to arrange payment and handed over £3,886 — the deposit plus interest and his £185 court fee.
Duncan says: ‘Small claims court is a great thing, a highly efficient and simple procedure.’
An Imagine Cruising spokesman apologises for the delay in processing Duncan’s refund, and says it had been working to pay him back within 90 days of the cancelled trip.
James Daley, of consumer group Fairer Finance, says legal action will always get a company’s attention.
‘As soon as you make a claim it will be escalated within the company,’ he says. ‘Many firms will then contact you to make an offer.’
While 114,459 cases were submitted in England and Wales last year, only 47,047 went to trial.
Marsha Farrington waited almost seven weeks for £84 worth of plants to be delivered by Gardening Express. But when the order finally arrived at her Birmingham home in June, some flowers were damaged.
Largely ignored, in August, Marsha, 66, took the case to the small claims court, demanding £57.73 for the flowers and £100 in compensation.
Just over a week later, the company told the grandmother-of-five it would pay everything — including her £25 court fee.
‘You need to be confident you have a case, but I’d encourage anyone who is to submit a claim,’ says Marsha.
A Gardening Express spokesman apologises, adding that a small minority of orders had been delayed due to ‘unforeseen capacity issues’.
And retired wholesaler owner Liz Middleton is contemplating taking British Airways to court.
The 77-year-oldfrom Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, initially accepted airline vouchers after her £10,302.72 three-week trip to South Africa on March 16 was cancelled.
But after realising she was entitled to cash, she changed her mind.
As her claim is between £10,000 and £25,000, it was submitted to the fast-track system. When the airline failed to respond, Liz automatically won.
However, British Airways said it never received the original claim and the judgment was set aside.
Liz says: ‘I’m now deciding whether I should hire a barrister.’
A British Airways spokesman declined to comment You can use the small claims court without hiring a lawyer to claim up to £10,000 in England and Wales, or £5,000 in Scotland, where the system is known as the Simple Procedure.
You may have to attend court to give evidence, but you would be given 21 days’ notice of a hearing.
Exhaust all other options before claiming, and ideally inform the company in writing that you intend to launch legal proceedings.
If the case goes to court, you may be charged a hearing fee of up to £325, but if you win your case you may get all claim fees back.
If you’re in England or Wales, visit gov.uk/make-money-claim to submit a claim online, or call 0300 123 1372 for help making a claim by post. The company will have 14 days to respond, though they may be able to ask for longer.
In Scotland, visit scotcourts.gov.uk/ taking-action/civil-online-gateway/ or contact your local sheriff court.