The big freeze wreaked havoc across the UK last week, causing widespread travel disruption and some events to be cancelled – but if you lost out you may be able to get your money back.
Although flights and train journeys are largely back to normal, thousands were cancelled last week, many people struggled to get to work, schools across the UK shut their doors, and some homes are still without water due to burst pipes caused by the big freeze. If you have lost out as a result, here are your rights:
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I had tickets to an event which was cancelled, will I get my money back?
Some events were cancelled in the worst hit areas, but you should have been offered either an alternative date or refund.
Under the Consumer Rights Act if a company fails to carry out a service you have a right to a ‘repeat performance’, but this must be available within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to you – so if this is not possible you can instead ask for your money back.
Peter Stonely, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s lead on civil law, said: “Some businesses will have covered bad weather cancellations, postponements and rescheduling in the terms and conditions of their contract, but any such terms must be fair and balanced. Therefore consumers who were due to attend an event that was cancelled, or who are unable to make the rearranged date should be offered a refund instead.”
Unfortunately we have heard of refunds being refused. MSE Megan had booked a £420 hen-do event of outdoor games for 12 people in Wales, which was cancelled due to the weather. The company only offered an alternative event in a different area or to rebook on an alternative day, both of which were no good. She asked for a full refund which was refused as the company claims its T&Cs mean it doesn’t have to offer ‘adverse weather’ refunds. She will report the firm and has applied for the refund via her credit card company.
If the company you booked an event with is refusing to give a refund and you think it is being unreasonable you can report it to Trading Standards via Citizens Advice.
If you booked the event using a credit or debit card you may also be able to claim via your provider:
- Paid on a credit card and each ticket cost more than £100? Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay on your credit card for an individual ticket more than £100, the card company’s equally liable and you may be able to claim from it. See our Section 75 guide for more info and template letters.
- Ticket less than £100 or paid on a debit card? Unlike Section 75, the chargeback scheme isn’t a legal requirement, it’s just a customer service promise. But it’s worth trying. You may be covered by the Visa, Mastercard or American Express protection schemes, see our Chargeback guide for details of how to claim.
I had a booking or tickets to an event but I couldn’t get there, what now?
While companies don’t always give refunds in these cases, some offered alternative dates or credit as goodwill gestures. Center Parcs, for example, is allowing those who were unable to get to its sites to swap their holiday to an alternative date, and Airbnb allowed some users who were unable to get to their booking to claim full refunds under its ‘severe weather’ policy.
Others, however, such as Travelodge and Premier Inn refused to offer customers alternative dates or a refund, unless they had booked their flexible rates option.
If you are out of pocket it’s worth checking if you were covered by any travel insurance policies you may have, such as an annual policy or one with a packaged bank account.
If you were supposed to travel by train but your journey was cancelled or disruption meant you couldn’t get there, unfortunately the National Rail Conditions of Carriage explicitly state that in the event of a train delay or cancellation, firms WON’T cover any consequential losses so this won’t be an option.
Can I claim money if I was left without water?
Thousands of homes across England and Wales have been left without water due to burst mains, caused by the thaw following last week’s snow.
If you’re affected by a problem such as a burst water main, outside of your property, your water company must tell you if your supply has been interrupted or cut off, and companies must also provide at least 10 litres of water per person per day within the first 24 hours, and continue to do so until running water is restored.
Many companies have set up water collection points at local supermarkets and car parks, see our MSE Thousands of home have been left without water News story for more information.
Ofwat, the water regulator for England and Wales, says you’re are entitled to at least £20 if your supply is off for 48 hours, and £10 for each 24 hour period after that. If water pressure falls below the required level twice within a 28 day period, for more than an hour each time, you’ll be entitled to £25.
While their are exceptions if extreme weather prevents repair, Ofwat expects water firms to pay out following last week’s weather.
Be aware, however, if the burst pipes are within the boundaries of your property, they may be considered out of the control of your water supply company and this could affect your compensation.
I lost power can I get compensation?
If your electricity supply was off for more than 24 hours you could be due compensation, though it will depend on how the storm is ‘graded’ by Ofgem (which is determined by how many major faults a firm has in a 24-hour period). We’re still waiting to hear from Ofgem, but here are the compensation levels:
- Most severe ‘category 1’ storm you’ll be eligible for £70 compensation if you have no energy supply for a continuous 24-hour period. A further £70 will be paid for each additional period of 12 hours in which supply is not restored, up to a total of £700.
- ‘Category 2’ storm you’ll be eligible for £70 compensation if you have no energy supply for a continuous 48-hour period, plus £70 for every further 12 hours up to a total of £700.
The compensation won’t be paid until your supply has been restored. To make a claim, you’ll need to contact your electricity company within three months of getting your supply back.
Can I get a cold weather payment?
Yes in many areas these payments were triggered.
During prolonged periods of cold weather, the state issues a ‘cold weather payment’ to older people and those on certain benefits, to help cover energy costs. It applies if the average temperature in your area is, or is forecast to be, 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 November and 31 March.
You can use the Government’s postcode checker to see if the cold weather payment has been triggered in your area since 1 November last year.
You’ll get £25 for every seven consecutive days of cold weather, and it’ll be automatically paid into the same account your benefits are paid into, within 14 working days of the cold spell. You don’t need to apply for the help but you can check the full eligibility criteria.
My flight was cancelled, what are my rights?
Hundreds of flights were cancelled during the snow, but UK airports are now running as normal.
If your flight was cancelled, however long before it was due to take off, and regardless of the cause, under EU rules you should have been asked to choose between:
- A full refund. This includes money back for both legs if you have booked a return ticket and either of your legs is cancelled.
- An alternative flight. If you still wanted to travel, your airline should have found an alternative flight. Depending on your preference, this has to be a) at the earliest opportunity, or b) at your leisure, subject to the availability of seats.
If you chose to be re-routed or if your departure was delayed by more than two hours, your airline should have also provided assistance such as food, phone calls and accommodation, where appropriate. If it did not, check if you still have any relevant receipts as you may be able to claim the money back from the airline.
Under EU rule 261/2004 it’s often possible to claim additional compensation of up to £530 per person for delayed or cancelled flights. However, this only applies when the delay or cancellation is due to something within the airline’s control which wouldn’t usually include bad weather.
As a result, you’re unlikely to be able to claim compensation on top of your refund or alternative flight, though there are a few cases where you may wish to pursue a claim, for example if the snow was widely predicted. See our Flight Delays and Cancellations guide for full info.
If your train was delayed or cancelled you may be owed cash
Train services across the country were disrupted by last week’s wintry conditions, but according to National Rail the majority are now running a normal service.
Here are the key need-to-knows if your journey was affected:
- My train was cancelled, can I get my money back? You should have been offered a full, immediate refund but if you weren’t contact the train company running the service to claim. The rules are slightly different for season ticket holders, see our Train Delays guide for more info.
- I arrived late can I get compensation? The rules are not universal for all train firms, but in most cases you can claim for a delay of 30+ minutes (or even 15+ in some cases), regardless of the reason. You can usually get at least 50% of your fare back.
- If an emergency train timetable was in place, can I still claim compensation if I was delayed? Some train firms put emergency timetables in place if so, it may affect what you can claim.
If you did decide to travel knowing there was an emergency timetable in place and were then delayed, the compensation youre due will be based on the emergency timetable not the usual timetable.
For lots more, including how to claim and the rules if you miss a connection, see our Train Delays guide.
You may be able to claim if a pothole has damaged your car
Snow and ice can cause potholes in the roads, which in turn can cause some serious damage to your car.
You may, however, be able to claim for any repairs if you can prove the pothole caused the damage, and the authority that is responsible for that road should have fixed the pothole.
We’ve heard of motorists reclaiming hundreds of pounds for damage, such as forumite Mrchewie who said: “Two mangled alloys and one tyre, £735 worth of damage. Claim now settled for the full amount after initially being thrown out. Thank you MSE for the pothole claim guidelines.”
See our Pothole Claims guide for more information, including how to collect evidence, how to claim and what to do if you’re turned down.
My delivery didnt arrive on time or at all what can I do?
Many retailers struggled to get some of their deliveries to customers on time last week.
Hopefully you have managed to rearrange a delivery or get a refund, but it’s worth remembering that companies have to up to 30 days to deliver goods if they didn’t give you an explicit date for delivery.
The majority of the big supermarkets also faced issue getting some deliveries there on time, but you have hopefully managed to rearrange your delivery slot, if not you will be entitled to a full refund.
If you took time off last week to wait in for a delivery that didn’t show and will now have to take extra time off it’s pretty unlikely you’d be able to claim compensation for this. That said, if it’s caused serious inconvenience or you think the company should have been able to get your delivery to you there’s no harm contacting it and seeing if it will offer a goodwill gesture.
See our Failed Delivery guide for more information.