The snow may have melted, but the Beast from the East and Storm Emma are still causing problems for many. If you've had your travel plans disrupted during the chaos caused by the weather in the last two weeks, the good news is that you may well be able to claim compensation.
Thousands of flights have been cancelled due to the snow. Unfortunately, as this was all down to the weather and beyond the airlines' control, the compensation you're entitled to is limited. However, your airline must rebook you onto an alternative flight or offer you a refund. If you choose to be re-routed or if your departure is delayed by more than two hours, airlines also have to provide assistance such as food, phone calls and accommodation "where appropriate", advises MoneySavingExpert.
If it's your train travel that has been messed up by the freezing weather, then there are an array of rules that dictate what compensation you can receive. Anyone who arrived late can usually claim at least 50% of their fare back if they were delayed by more than 30 minutes. You should also be able to claim a refund if you decided not to travel due to a delay.
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During periods of dire weather, such as the one we've just been through, many train companies adopt emergency timetables, which will affect what you can claim for. If you bought your ticket before the change of timetable took place, then you can claim a refund if you chose not to travel. If you did travel and were still delayed, then the compensation for the delay is the same as normal, but only kicks in if you were more than 30 minutes late arriving at your destination measured against the emergency timetable.
But if you have a season ticket and were unable to travel, or delayed, then the rules are different. When a train is cancelled, you can't get a refund if you decide not to travel. But if you did try to travel and were delayed, then you can claim compensation. This is worked out as a percentage of the cost of your season ticket.
It's also worth being aware that if you were one of the customers affected by severe delays on Southeastern train journeys on certain days last week, the company is offering "enhanced compensation" that is double the "Delay Repay" amount, which varies depending on the delay, or £100, whichever is greater.
Emergency boiler cover isn't worth it
The bad weather also led to countless people having problems with their boilers. If your boiler broke down and you were ringing round plumbers desperately trying to find someone to fix it, you may now be considering taking out emergency boiler cover. However, you may want to think twice.
Firstly, in chaotic weather conditions having emergency boiler cover doesn't necessarily increase your chances of getting someone through the snow to your house to fix your boiler. British Gas has been criticised in the Daily Mail for leaving customers calling empty call centres, after it sent many of its staff home due to the weather conditions.
Emergency boiler cover was revealed last year to be one of the least-claimed insurance policies available. Fewer than one in ten policyholders with Aviva make a claim, says the Financial Conduct Authority. And when they do, the payout is between £120-£139 on a policy costing £79 a year. "The typical customer will be holding a policy for around ten years before making a claim, therefore paying more than £700 in premiums. For what? A payout worth just one-fifth of that amount," says The Guardian.
A far better idea is to make sure you have a reasonable amount of money set aside in an emergency pot to deal with unexpected events such as a broken boiler that way you don't have to scrabble for the cash when you need it.
Pocket money broker collapses amid fraud allegations
Broker firm Beaufort Securities went bust last week, amid allegations it had been running £36m of securities fraud and money-laundering schemes through "its web of offshore companies", says The Mail on Sunday. The allegations came to light after an FBI agent posed as an "unscrupulous trader" trying to do business with Beaufort. The broker is alleged to have run at least ten "pump-and-dump" schemes these involve fraudulently inflating a company's share price or trading volume so a shareholder can then "dump" the shares by selling them on for a profit.
Beaufort also allegedly attempted to arrange for the agent to buy a Picasso painting and then later sell it in order to "clean the money". The firm was put into administration by the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, and around £700m of funds tied to investments with the broker have been frozen.
Energy bills are expected to rise as wholesale gas prices reached their highest levels for 20 years amid soaring demand. But if you are thinking about switching to a cheaper deal, be careful where you go. "Anyone thinking of switching should do careful background checks after warnings that a handful of cash-strapped providers could fail in the coming months," says David Byers in The Times.
Future Energy, a small supplier with 10,000 customers, went bust in January, and comparison site The Energy Shop has warned that it may not be the last, as other suppliers "may not be able to cope with a tide of rising costs because of a lack of investment".
If your provider goes bust, then energy regulator Ofgem will automatically transfer you to another provider, but your bills may go up. When looking to switch, never pay anything up front, warns Byers. Some providers ask you to do this in return for a better deal, but "you should take this as a warning that they may not have cash reserves and need your money to stay afloat". Check with Companies House to see if directors have been involved in past failed ventures.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
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