The pandemic has dominated news headlines this year with Covid-19 affecting everybody in one way or another.
The coronavirus has had a big knock-on effect on consumers, and This is Money has received thousands of reader complaints in 2020, many from customers struggling to get their problems sorted.
Some have seen holidays cancelled, and others had refunds delayed and deliveries lost during the past year due to the virus, while others have had non-coronavirus related issues that have added more stress to their everyday lives.
This is Money has managed to help hundreds of readers get their money back this year
To help get back as much money as possible for its readers, This is Money has tackled hundreds of consumer woes, and won thousands of pounds for customers.
Below, we take a look back at some of the year’s biggest issues – and biggest victories.
Dartford Crossing pile-up
One reader, Martin Andrews, told our reporter, George Nixon, how £167.50 worth of unpaid toll fares turned into nearly £12,000 worth of fines.
Martin got into difficulty after making the short trip from his home in Rochester, Kent, on the A2 and through the Dartford tunnel to his work in Essex and back over the bridge every weekday.
However, once the rules changed in 2018, and under stress of moving home, he made the ‘innocent mistake’ of forgetting to pay the £2.50 charge to cross the bridge, racking up 67 crossing charges, or 33 round trips.
While this left Highways England, the operators of the Dartford Crossing, £167.50 out of pocket, thanks to £35 penalty charges and the cost of bailiff fees, Martin was told to pay £11,970.59.
After This is Money contacted Highways England, it refunded him £5,268.09 that he had already paid and settled the total cost at £1,575 – a saving of over £10,000.
One reader came to us for help after being charged thousands in Dartford Crossing fees
Holiday rebooked a day too early
In our new weekly column, Grace on the Case, consumer expert Grace Gausden takes on the issues currently facing the British public.
So far, she has tackled lost furniture, potentially fake trainers and a stolen phone.
In a recent case, a Tui customer was told he could no longer claim his 40 per cent uplift from the company – after his initial holiday was cancelled – as he had re-booked his trip to Cuba a day too early.
He had to pay an extra £1,100 to secure the booking.
However, after we intervened, this amount was refunded and the trip will hopefully still be underway in the new year.
Help to Buy woe
A couple were forced to fork out an extra £900 towards their first home after a Help to Buy bonus they were owed was rejected by mistake.
On the morning of moving, Amandeep Nijjer, 36, and his wife Joanne, 32, had to find an extra £900 to pay their fees – an extremely stressful experience.
After investigating, This is Money found out that the bonus had been rejected because of a mix-up with the solicitors.
Thankfully, after we intervened the Nijjers received their £900 back on 9 January, four months after they were initially charged, plus interest.
This is Money has helped readers with their mortgage troubles throughout 2020
Pleas for help from Currys PC World shoppers
This year, we have been inundated with complaints about Currys PC World with common complaints including faulty products, no refunds given and lack of customer service.
The issues have been ongoing for months with many turning to This is Money in sheer desperation.
Fortunately, we have been able to help some of those customers get their money back.
This includes one reader, Simon, who was left waiting on a £330 refund for a TV for weeks before we got involved.
Help for first-time buyers
In a major victory for This is Money, the Treasury announced in May that first-time buyers who run into financial difficulty would no longer be charged their own money to raid their future house deposits.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said those who needed the money would no longer be charged a 25 per cent withdrawal penalty until next April – after we contacted the Treasury demanding change.
Instead the fee has been dropped to 20 per cent, meaning savers have to pay back the Government top-up of up to £1,000 a year but are charged on their own savings.
One couple spent thousands on a wedding photo album that didn’t appear for months
Photo fail for newly-weds
Back before coronavirus had overtaken us, one couple went on a Celebrity Cruise and got married on board.
The two paid £1,694.45 for professional photos to be taken in December 2019, including £1,382.04 for a photo album, which they still hadn’t received three months later.
When This is Money got in touch with Celebrity Cruises to find out what the delay was, the firm refunded the total cost of the photos as well as finally sending the finished album.
Frozen Child Trust Fund win
The mother of a 17-year-old boy with profound learning disabilities, who would be unable to access his Child Trust Fund cash when he became an adult, won her battle to unlock more than £2,000 in frozen funds.
She discovered a previous story on the subject by This is Money, and using this article she was able to make her case.
Now, in one of the first reported examples of the parents of a disabled child succeeding in an attempt to access their money, Catherine, from Worcestershire, will be able to manage her son Oliver’s funds when he turns 18 next April.
Hold the phone
One reader who travelled to Saudi Arabia for work found she had been charged £1,710.66 on her phone bill while away.
The money was supposedly taken for 285.09MB worth of data usage while she was abroad.
Although she had upped her data cap, she was asleep at the time the data was supposed to have been used.
After This is Money contacted O2, her phone network, it fortunately agreed to refund the whole amount. However, it is a good lesson to all to be careful of data usage when abroad.
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