Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
J.F. writes: I am sending you a copy of a county court claim against Wizz Air UK Limited, which was sent to its registered office at Luton Airport.
It ignored the claim and did not reply to the court, so judgment was awarded against the airline for £1,542.68.
However, the company has ignored this too, saying it has no presence in the UK.
Flight risk: Wizz Air UK ignored the claim and did not reply to the court, so judgment was awarded against the airline for £1,542.68
Tony Hetherington replies: For an airline that feels able to turn its back on a court judgment by saying it has no presence in this country, Wizz Air UK does a pretty poor job of concealing itself. The UK company was set up in 2017 as an offshoot of the original Wizz Air in Hungary. The ultimate parent company is Wizz Air Holdings, registered in Jersey, whose shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange.
The group has more than 170 Airbus aircraft, 17 of which belong to Wizz Air UK. This airline with no presence, even gets UK publicity. In August, figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority showed it was the worst airline of all for flight departure delays. It also grabbed headlines in June when it encouraged its employees to work even when fatigued, so Wizz could avoid cancelling flights.
It was a cancellation that led you to sue Wizz. You and a friend were booked to fly from Gatwick to Faro in Portugal. Wizz cancelled your flight with just three hours’ notice, while you were already on your way to the airport. You were not offered seats on any alternative flight so you rebooked with a different airline, paying all over again.
After you won, Wizz failed to pay up so you put the matter in the hands of the court’s bailiffs. They failed to collect a penny, telling you that, ‘Wizz Air has no staff, offices, or assets in London Luton Airport.’
I thought perhaps the bailiffs had been chasing the wrong company, even though the airline’s recent letter to you is headed with the name of Wizz Air UK Limited. Then I did some digging and the results are a scandal.
I checked to see whether anyone else had sued Wizz Air UK, and had won but not been paid. Working back, I found a judgment for £1,009 on October 5, and then two on October 3, one for £1,280 and another for £913. Then more, and more, and more until I was staring at a list covering 111 pages. In all, I found 456 county court judgments against Wizz Air UK. It had paid 55 of these, leaving 401 unsatisfied.
I asked the company to explain its failure to pay you, and its apparent refusal to obey hundreds of other court orders. Should passengers be concerned? Is Wizz just ignoring orders to pay up, or should customers worry that it simply might not have the cash? Just as bad, is this the airline’s deliberate policy? The group’s recent accounts showed it lost about £336million last year, and had borrowings totalling almost £4billion.
The questions are mounting up, but Wizz Air UK failed to answer a single one. It confirmed it received my questions. It said it would supply answers. But it didn’t. I wonder how long the Civil Aviation Authority will be happy to let it fly in and out of UK airports, operating as a British business, while ignoring British courts? Passengers may start voting with their feet first.
Two-year licence delay
Ms M.G. writes: I read with interest your recent article about DVLA delays involving driving licences for those with a medical condition.
I have been trying to get a renewal for a long time and it now asks people not to contact it for an update.
M.G. have been trying to get a renewal for a long time and DVLA now asks people not to contact it for an update
Tony Hetherington replies: You told me that you originally tried to renew your licence online two years ago, but ran into problems with the DVLA website.
Then the Government announced that because of the pandemic, licences due to expire in 2020 would automatically be extended for 11 months. Confusingly though, a DVLA letter in July 2021 told you that your licence was no longer valid, so you applied for a new one.
This must have been frustrating, but worse still, in August this year you were told that your 2021 application had run out of time and you would have to start all over again. I suspect this advice was computer-generated and nobody had actually looked at the background. I contacted DVLA for a comment and staff there promptly issued your new licence.
It told me it is back to the normal timetable for handling applications, except for some medical cases.
Nationwide’s own goal
M.K. writes: Nationwide decided it was going to close all Treasurer’s Trust accounts because, it said, most were dormant.
This was not the case with the club I run for a group of football fans. I deposited about £2,500 over the summer, taking our credit balance to about £4,300.
Nationwide was supposed to give 90 days’ notice of closure but breached this rule.
Nationwide decided it was going to close all Treasurer’s Trust accounts because, it said, most were dormant
Tony Hetherington replies: Normally, Nationwide was only required to give you 60 days’ notice of closure, though it did extend this to 90 days temporarily during the pandemic.
The basic point though is that banks and building societies are not obliged to deal with any customer they don’t want, or to carry on offering any account or other service that they decide to close.
Where Nationwide really slipped up was in blocking your account before you had quite emptied it. You opened a bank account elsewhere and transferred everything except £1 from Nationwide, but when you went to a branch to withdraw that final £1, you were told you had to complete a withdrawal form.
You had already done this, but the branch could not get through to the right department on the phone, so refused to let you have your £1.
Nationwide told me: ‘The account has now been closed and we have contacted our member to apologise for the frustration caused.’
You now have your £1, plus 13p interest, and £25 by way of saying sorry for the inconvenience.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.