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GRACE ON THE CASE: We could lose our £1k deposit for cancelled Scout camp

I am a group scout leader. Our Scouts group had a two night camp booking with Kingswood, which provides outdoor trips and activities.

Our booking was for June 2020 but when the pandemic hit, I was told our deposit would be non-refundable if we didn’t go. 

Eventually, we were told it could be refunded or moved to a new date but I found out that was only before winter this year which seems unfair as it is unlikely we will have been able to commence face-to-face scouting activities by then. 

We stand to lose £936 – a lot of money for a scouting group. Can you help please? S.P., via email

A Scout camp stood to lose nearly £1k in deposits after it was cancelled due to the pandemic

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: You were frustrated when this outdoor activity centre did not appear to abide by Scouts honour last year.

A longstanding scout leader, you say your troop have been loyal customers of Kingswood for a few years now.

Kingswood is an activity centre with accommodation. There are nine centres in Britain and one in France. 

According to its website, it is re-opening – like most accommodation – from 17 May 2021.

Your booking consisted of 39 members of your Scouts group, as well as five adults, who were due to stay at the Colomendy camp in North Wales for two nights at the end of June 2020.

Each Scout had paid a £20 deposit plus VAT, bringing the total to £936.

As soon as lockdown was announced, you say you kept emailing Kingswood about re-booking the trip as there was no way it could go ahead. 

The first person who got back to you advised there could be no refund of the initial deposit which caused you great concern and so you continued to push to rebook.

Eventually, you received an email from the chief executive stating that, thankfully, you could opt for a refund or move the trip to a new date.

GRACE ON THE CASE 

Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:

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However, upon further enquiry, you found it wanted you to book before winter 2020 whereas your previous booking was a summer camp.

This would not work as the Scouts Association had suspended all face-to-face activity, with no date to resume it. 

You say a winter camp would mean parents would also need to purchase additional appropriate outdoor wear for their children, which could prove costly.

All of the children in your Scouts group are from BAME backgrounds, they could be seen as higher risk and many parents and carers did not feel comfortable sending them away. 

Kingswood therefore agreed to move the booking to warmer months in 2021 and agreed to give a discount of £24 per child for the trouble but said unless you go to camp before June you will lose the entire deposit – putting you back in the same position as before.

Booking for this June would be a risky move as the country is still in a form of lockdown and you believe the Scouts Association will still not allow face-to-face activity anytime soon meaning your insurance whilst at camp will be invalid.

Many of the parents of the Scouts were unable to pay the full amount after the pandemic

Many of the parents of the Scouts were unable to pay the full amount after the pandemic

Later conversations then led to bookings being available to October 2021 but you say Kingswood were asking for payment from the parents upfront to secure the booking which you advised wouldn’t be possible as many are suffering financial difficulty due to the pandemic.

The total cost of the whole trip will be £2,379 – something the group, and parents, are unwilling and unable to stump up at present, especially without a fixed date. 

Unfortunately, you are still dealing with this booking despite having to quit your role as Scouts leader to work as a full time key worker, meaning the long drawn out conversations, weeks apart, were causing you much stress.

Therefore, you got in touch with me, and I contacted Kingswood to find out why the booking could not be moved to further dates in the future, given the current uncertainty, and whether the deposit could still stand – without further payment needed.

Kingswood took a while before it got back to me but when it did, it agreed that you could now move your booking to anytime in 2022 as well as receive the discount voucher, saving you £936 – and a lot of hassle.

A spokesperson for Kingswood said: ‘In summer 2020 we offered the customer a voucher that amounted to the full value of their deposit, to be used at any time until the end of October 2021.

‘We were recently made aware that this now presents a problem for this customer. 

‘We all have a better understanding that disruption might remain for longer than we expected in 2020, and we have spoken with the customer to confirm we are happy for them to use their vouchers for a booking during 2022.’

It sounds like there had been several crossed wires along the way, especially with regards to payments, which caused a lot of stress and anxiety. 

Kingswood added several emails appeared not to have reached it, unfortunately prolonging the matter. However, fortunately now it has all been resolved. 

Your deposit is secured and your Scouts group can choose a date in the future when all parents and children feel safe and have the available funds. Hopefully, by this point, it will be a group of happy campers.  

Eon is under scrutiny this week after assigning a customers account to the wrong address

Eon is under scrutiny this week after assigning a customers account to the wrong address

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.

Miss: This week, energy supplier Eon, has been criticised by a reader, Mr Kang, who received late marks on his credit file after an error by the firm, meaning he was unable to get a mortgage approved.

Mr Kang opened an account with Eon in October for a flat he rents out, however, the energy firm wrongly registered it to the wrong address – the flat above.

Late charges were then added to the bill as Mr Kang was not aware it was in his name and therefore was unable to pay.

He paid the bill in January, minus the late charges, as he had not received any correspondence from the supplier regarding this.

However, when he applied for a mortgage in the same month, he found out Eon have put four late marks on his credit file.

I got in touch with Eon as it seemed unfair his credit score was being affected by the error.

An Eon spokesperson said: ‘Mr Kang’s account was originally registered to an incorrect address. This has now been rectified and we have offered a goodwill gesture to Mr Kang for the inconvenience caused by this.

‘We issued Mr Kang’s final bill in October and all debt follow up since then has been sent to the customer’s correct address. While we have removed his late payment fees, as the balance was not paid until January, we have had to apply late markers to his account. 

‘These markers accurately reflect the payment performance of the customer.’

The goodwill payment referred to was just £10, according to Mr Kang, who is still unhappy with the outcome. 

My recommendation would now be to take the matter to the Energy Ombudsman who can make a ruling.  

Hit: In brighter news this week, one reader said they were impressed with Marks & Spencer‘s customer service.

She said: ‘I bought yellow roses trough from Marks and Spencer for £25 last month. The flowers arrived and looked lovely.

‘The instructions advised the roses only needed watering every 10 days which I did. However, it also said to give the flowers just some sunlight but I think I may have given them too much.

‘After only a couple of days the flowers started dying until only one was left. I contacted Marks and Spencer which apologised immediately and offered a refund or a replacement.

‘I took the refund as I realised that maybe looking after flowers wasn’t for me.’ 

It is blooming good news you got your money back – and learnt a lesson or two about how to look after plants.

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