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A little-known lifeline

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 16:37 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

A little-known financial lifeline has been uncovered by the X-Ray team.

But are the banks doing enough to make their staff aware of it, and are they passing the information to their customers?

Gail and Ken Hughes from Prenteg near Porthmadog received the wrong information from their bank when they tried to get a refund on some chairs they'd paid for using their Visa Debit card.

The trouble started in May when Gail and Ken ordered the furniture from Finney's in Bangor.

Ken told presenter Rachel Treadaway -Williams the two chairs would cost £268, including the delivery charge.

But while the couple waited for the chairs, the company which ran Finneys went into administration.

At the time Finneys promised to honour orders and return deposits, but when Gail and Ken contacted the liquidators they were told to try and get a refund from their bank.

In the UK purchases on Visa Debit cards are covered by a scheme known as chargeback.  It's not legally binding, like the rules which cover credit card purchases, but banks using Visa Debit agree to apply its principles.

Chargeback can be used if something you've paid for using the card doesn't arrive, arrives damaged, is not as it was described, or where the merchant has ceased trading. 

There are some conditions - you'll need to claim within 120 days of realising there's been a problem with the purchase and there's no guarantee that your claim will be successful, but your bank should be aware of its duty to investigate each case.

The HSBC branch

The HSBC branch

They weren't aware of chargeback, but on the advice of Finney's administrators, Gail and Ken headed to their local branch of HSBC in Porthmadog to try and get a refund.

“We went to the cashier's counter. I gave her the actual card, the Visa Debit card which she claimed she took in the back to manager. She said the manager said you can't have your money back, you could only have it if you paid by credit card. We just accepted it and walked out.” Gail said.

X-Ray wanted to know if this kind of bad advice from banks was a common problem. We phoned all the major banks and visited some of their branches in Pontypridd.

Two of the banks gave us completely the wrong information. On the phone, Lloyds TSB told us that we couldn't get a refund on an item that hadn't been delivered because we'd paid by Visa Debit card, and in the Pontypridd branch of Halifax our researcher was given the same wrong information. Lloyds Banking group - which runs them both - has promised to remind their frontline staff about the scheme - so they can pass the information onto customers.

According to Trading Standards, some banks don't do enough to let consumers know what their rights are when it comes to getting a refund through chargeback.

Steve Bumford from Cardiff Trading Standards told X-Ray, “It's obvious that some banks aren't telling their staff or not training their staff. When we advise people to go to their banks and ask for chargeback they're told if they bought it on credit card they could have had a refund.”

We contacted HSBC who agree that Ken and Gail were given the wrong information and said that they are entitled to claim for their chairs under the chargeback rules.

They've refunded the couple's £268 and told us they recently switched all Debit card customers from Maestro which didn't operate the chargeback rules to Visa Debit which does. They are reminding staff of the additional benefits provided by Visa Debit.


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