A reader called Sean parked in a car park in Maynooth that is managed by Apcoa. He was bringing his young son to a nearby playground and he paid for one hour’s parking via the Apcoa app.
“I returned exactly one hour later, to find the Apcoa clamper leaving the car park and my car was clamped,” he writes. “I ran after the van and gestured to him to stop but to no avail. I couldn’t understand why the car had been clamped and it didn’t help that my son was already hungry.”
So Sean called the company and paid the €125 fine, still unsure as to why he had been clamped as the app confirmed he had paid for the hour’s parking. Then he called Apcoa customer care and explained the situation.
“They said they could see I had paid properly and was clamped inappropriately. I asked how long it would take to release the clamp and was told it could be an hour.
“The clamper would be working to a schedule dictated by the order which the fines were paid. When I pointed out I shouldn’t have been clamped in the first place, she said she would see what she could do,” Sean says.
About 30 minutes later the clamper arrived back. “I was more than courteous with him at all times,” our reader says. “I asked why he thought my car should have been clamped and this is where it got ridiculous.”
According to Sean, the clamper said he had noted a parking disc on the windscreen that said “Leinster Street”.
Sean explained that the disc was a Dublin City Council parking disc for Leinster Street North, Phibsborough.
The clamper then explained that the car park across the road in Maynooth was the Leinster Street car park, so he thought our reader had parked in the wrong car park.
Sean explained that he had paid for an hour’s parking via the app and had come back to the car in time. The clamper agreed that Sean’s payment had come up as valid on his electronic parking timer but that when he mentioned to his team leader about the Leinster Street disc on the car he was told to “clamp it anyway”.
It was, said the clamper, human error and “ah look, it could be worse”.
Sean then emailed Apcoa and submitted an appeal. “I’m told it could be 21 days before I get a reply. They did admit the car was clamped in the wrong and a cheque would likely be sent, by post.
“My question is, apart from the refund of €125 is there scope for any compensation? I don’t like using that word and I’m not normally the instigator of long customer care sagas about trivial matters, but I parked correctly, paid properly, was inconvenienced for 45 minutes, I’m missing €125 from my bank account for what could be three weeks and I’ll have to make an unnecessary trip to the bank to lodge the cheque when it does arrive. All of this was made worse by the flippant attitude and lack of any apology shown by the both the clamper and Apcoa customer care.”
We’re definitely on Sean’s side on this one. Being clamped at the best of times is a huge inconvenience but when you are clamped through no fault of your own it is both an inconvenience and an justice, and the company needs to be held accountable.
Dress disappointment: Manufacturer fails to come clean with reader
Before Christmas a Wexford reader by the name of Daphne “bought a beautiful dress for a wedding”.
She tells us the dress had some coloured buttons and plenty of beads and sequins. She wore the dress on the day of the wedding and decided to have it dry cleaned as per the instructions on the label.
“A few days later the owner of the dry cleaners phoned me to say that he tried some of the dry cleaning solution on a few of the purple buttons before he put it on all the dress. The solution removed the colour from the buttons, they are now white and he felt the dress was not suitable for dry cleaning.”
So Daphne contacted the shop as she felt that “as I had followed the instructions on the label they should be aware that the dress was not suitable to be dry-cleaned.
“I was informed very quickly that there was nothing they could do about it but they would inform the manufacturer. They claimed that no one else who purchased a dress reported any problems. They took my name and number but I have heard nothing back since.”
So Daphne contacted the manufacturer directly and emailed photos of the dress buttons to her. She was told the maker had not received any other complaints but they said they would refund some of the purchase price. “Then the company discovered I had not bought the dress online from them. I was told to contact the boutique which as I mentioned above were not interested.”
She wants to know if there is anything more she can do.
It is an interesting query. The dry cleaner has done their job and tested a small area of the dress to make sure it was suitable for dry cleaning and it wasn’t. So as it stands there is no significant damage done to the dress.
The retailer – who she does not name – has washed their hands of the issue which they should not have done. While our reader has the right to deal with the manufacturer if she so chooses, her contract is with the shop where the product was bought and – ultimately – it is the shop’s job to resolve the situation.
The manufacturer has not exactly covered itself in glory and once she alerted the company to the problem it should have done more to help her out.
British Airways: Return flight cancelled without notice
We got a mail from Joe Macken who believes he was “screwed over” this Christmas by British Airways.
He bought return flights from Dublin to London City leaving on Christmas Eve and returning on December 27th as all his family was meeting in London for Christmas.
“It turned out most of the family were travelling on the 23rd, BA were charging in excess of €100 to change the ticket so I booked a new flight with Aer Lingus for €46,” he writes. “I tried numerous times on BA.com and by calling them to cancel the first leg of my flight to at least get the taxes back but the website only allowed me to cancel both legs and British Airways don’t like to answer the phone.”
So he simply didn’t travel on the first leg of his BA flight.
Then BA cancelled his return journey. The same thing happened to his aunt who had found herself in the same situation.
“We both had to rebook seats on half empty flights to get home. Having had years of experience in the restaurant industry and knowing the hard push back against a ‘No Show’ for people not showing up for food they have yet to eat/pay for, my questions are: How can an airline cancel a seat I have paid for. It is irrelevant if I fly or not, they have been paid. On my e-ticket there is no mention of a no-show rule, but on the basis of a no-show should the airline not have to contact you to see will you take the following flight/flights, they happily email you should you call their Contact Centre and to sell paring before you fly.”
He says that he paid for four flight to go and return to London for Christmas . “I feel I’ve been screwed, worst part is this has happened to my aunt who also changed her flight because she didn’t want to be on her own flying to London on the 24th.”
This story is not uncommon.
Last summer one of Europe’s leading consumer groups has called for “rip-off no-show clauses”– which some airlines use to maximise profits if passengers miss the outward- bound leg of return flights – to be outlawed.
The British-based consumer champion Which? highlighted cases of passengers being stranded and left hundreds of euro out of pocket by carriers exploiting clauses often buried deep in the terms and conditions.
Such clauses allow an airline to cancel a passenger’s connecting or return flights just because they miss the outward-bound flight with no refund given. In some cases airlines are effectively able to double their money by subsequently reselling the seats they cancel.
The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has also concluded that a policy of automatically cancelling a passenger’s return flight if they do not take the outbound flight is “disproportionate” and falls short of its expectations on “fairness and transparency” for consumers.
British Airways was found to adopt a harsh approach and would simply cancel flights if the initial journeys were not taken.
In response to Which? the airline said many of its tickets allow customers to make changes to their flights if they inform the airline before travelling and said such a policy was common practice in the industry and there to stop “tariff abuse” – when passengers buy return tickets that are cheaper than a single flight.
Aer Lingus: Airline puts best foot forward over injured passenger
And finally a bit of good news.
“I was reading your latest on bargain shopping during the week, where you shared a rare good news story [to do with British Airways and a retirement cake] and I thought I should share my good experience with Aer Lingus,” writes Bronwyn Molony.
She broke her foot in mid-November, and was put in a walking boot. “I went on the Aer Lingus site to see what I would need to do to get assistance while flying. It seemed pretty clear, but I rang their special assistance team to ask a question. I got straight through to a person, who was really helpful and answered all my questions, and told me how I could email back my medical clearance form.”
Once she got her medical clearance form and sent it back she had to call special assistance again to ask about the online form for getting assistance through the airport “because I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage the long distance by myself. When I rang special assistance the second time, I explained about my foot and that I wasn’t sure what kind of assistance to ask for on the online form. The lady I was talking to simply asked for my reference number, and told me she’d booked it all for me”.
When Bronwyn arrived at the airport she checked in with special assistance. “They were so helpful. They checked in my bag for me, had a wheelchair ready straight away, helped me through security as well as helped me buy lunch and then brought me to my gate. When I landed on the other side, there was a wheelchair waiting as I stepped off the aircraft. The exact same was true on the reverse trip. All of the staff I met were so kind and helpful, and they made my trip stress free.
“I was really nervous about flying with a broken foot, but the staff in Aer Lingus and the airport made the trip seamless. I know airlines get a lot of heat about late flights and bad service but this was easily the best experience I’ve had flying, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the service (hopefully I won’t have to!).”