Pricewatch: Readers’ queries

This week’s consumer problems relate to Irish Rail’s ticketing service and VHI’s phone limbo

Irish Rail has owned up to shortcomings in its online facilities

Irish Rail has owned up to shortcomings in its online facilities



Irish Rail’s ticketing service not up to speed 

Colm booked a train ticket to Waterford last week, but got his days confused and booked a journey for the day before he wanted to travel.

“I rang Irish Rail a week before I was due to travel,” he writes. “When you ring up, you are given two options: to cancel your ticket or to amend your ticket,” he says.

He chose the second option. When he got through, a woman took his details and said she would get someone to ring him back. “Nobody contacted me. I rang up the following Tuesday, and, after ringing out eight times, eventually a woman answered. I told her that I wanted to change my travel date by one day. She took my reservation number and name, and then told me that in order to change my travel date I would have to cancel my original booking and rebook for the Friday. I would be refunded 50 per cent of my travel ticket.”

He asked why he couldn’t simply change the date. She said he had to cancel it. “I asked why I wouldn’t get a full refund; she said I was cancelling within four days of my travel date. I then told her that I had rung the previous Thursday. She went and looked into the booking and told me that the woman on the previous Thursday had in fact cancelled my booking, even though she never mentioned a word to me about cancelling.”

He was then told he would get an 80 per cent refund as the ticket was cancelled more than four days before his travel date.

“I hung up and emailed Irish Rail. I still haven’t got this 80 per cent refund. The whole thing is a joke. There is even a surcharge of €10 for changing the time on the ticket. It is ludicrous.”

We contacted Irish Rail and a spokesman said that it “fully accepts that the inability to amend bookings online is a shortcoming of our online facilities, and we are working to address this through a major project to upgrade a range of systems.” He said the timescales for this are “subject to funding availability”.

He apologised for the poor service our reader received. “It should have been made clear at the time that the ticket was being cancelled, and immediate arrangements should have been made to rebook.”


VHI’s existing customers left hanging on the telephone 

Helen from Ranelagh contacted us last week after trying to make contact with VHI, but her issue extends far beyond that company.

She had a query about her policy, so rang the company and went through the automated phone system. She was left on hold for 10 minutes, grew frustrated and hung up. A few minutes later she tried again, and again she went through the automated phone system and selected the “existing customers” option. Again she was on hold for 10 or so minutes before giving up.

On the third occasion she tried a different approach. Instead of pressing the existing-customers option she went for the “new customers” one. You’ll never guess what happened. She was connected to an operator within seconds.

“I said to her they must be really stretched in the existing-customers department because of the previous delays. I just wanted to get it off my chest, and I wasn’t cross – why shoot the messenger after all?

“But I found the whole thing deeply frustrating. I was completely ignored as an existing customer, but the warm embrace I got as a new customer was wonderful: I thought it was just short of having a bouquet sent to me.”

To be fair to VHI, she says that the staff member who took the call was able to help her with the query.


Clarks prizes for UK customers only 

“It’s back-to-school time and I’ve just completed the annual purge of my wallet,” writes Sin

éad Hamill. “As part of this ritual I bought my two girls school shoes in Clarks in Dundrum Town Centre.”

She says the assistant was very helpful, “and the girl at the counter got my nine-year-old very excited by saying said she could go online to to log a review of her customer experience and be in with a chance of a prize.

“My daughter was then very disappointed to discover that it only seemed open to UK customers, as it doesn’t give an option to select any Irish store. I rang the store to highlight it, and was told they would call back but they haven’t yet.

“It seems a bit unfair to advertise a ‘chance’ you can’t avail of, especially when the store staff specifically pointed out the chance to win.”

We contacted Clarks in the UK to find out why its customers in the Republic were being excluded from winning prizes, but at the time of going to print they had yet to get back to us.”

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