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Ooh la la! You can hop over to France for a few hours or a day, whether on the boat or by train.
This is a list of super-cheap French trip deals so you can say "au revoir!" to expensive Channel crossings. Routes include Dover to Calais or Dunkirk by ferry and London to Paris/Brussels/Amsterdam via coach.
Whether it's a retailer or restaurateur, airline or air-conditioner seller, computer shop or car rental company, there are always two main risks. Either it's a dodgy company, or it's a legit company that has financial problems and goes bust.
The aim of these tips is to help you minimise the risks.
Quite simply, its customers are immediately transformed into creditors. This hits hardest if you've ordered goods or tickets from them, and not had delivery, as then you become one of a line of people trying to get your money back out of the company's assets, and you usually get back much less than you paid in.
Even if you've had delivery, if the company you bought from goes under and there's a problem with the goods, it can mean you've no comeback.
While MoneySavingExpert.com endeavours to check deals are valid, we don't check companies ' finances. Even huge names like MFI and Woolies have folded, so it's very important you use the right strategies to stay protected where possible.
Pay by credit card for something over £100, and Section 75 laws supercharge your consumer rights.
Unlike debit cards, cheques or cash, pay in full or part (even just £1) on a credit card and by law the lender's jointly liable with the retailer.
This means you have exactly the same rights with the card company as you do with the retailer. So if it goes bust, you can simply take your complaints there instead and get money back if there's no delivery.
Yet it's important you ALWAYS REPAY IN FULL each month, so there's no interest cost. See the full Section 75 guide.
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help. It isn't a legal protection, just Visa, Mastercard and Amex's rules, but it's a good back-up.
Spend on a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card or any debit or charge card. If the goods don't appear, you can try to ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you complain within 120 days of realising there’s a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products like Ugg boots and Tiffany necklaces, so be wary if it's an unfamiliar site. And don't think that because it appears on a reputable search engine, that makes it a reputable site - always check.
Most folk know to look for a security padlock on the bottom right of a website, but that doesn't mean the site's legit, just that payment's secure.
To find out who registered the site and when, search the Whois database. Reputable firms should also appear on the Companies House site, the UK Government's official companies register. Be very wary of businesses with just a PO Box or email address.
Study the site's worldwide web ranking on Alexa. Anything in the top 100,000 means it's reasonably big and a good, though not foolproof indication of legitimacy. Do a quick Google search for other shoppers' experiences.
Crucially, ensure your security's up-to-date - free software can be downloaded to your computer in about five minutes. Full details in the Free Antivirus Software guide.
Many people are surprised to learn you've MORE rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Distance Selling Regulations.
These give you a legal right to send most goods back within seven days for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery. Read Consumer Rights for a full guide.
However, of course, this is balanced by the fact ordering online automatically means there's a time gap between ordering and delivering - when the company has your money. So if it goes bust during that time, the distance selling rights don't help.
Ultimately, there is always a risk that a company can go bust. If the above routes don't apply, then you have to make a decision about whether you're willing to take the risk of parting with your cash.
Don't be scared of this. Every day we all make transactions based on trust, and this is part of that, but do balance up the amount you're spending against the risk. Don't give large amounts of money to a company you're not sure about.
If you’re looking to make a day trip across the Channel, you may want to grab this deal before it sails. Go via this P&O Ferries* link - the code DIRECTDT should be auto-filled - to get six 'free' bottles of wine (norm £3ish each) when you book a Dover to Calais day return for a car or motorcycle from £24 return.
You have to book by 11.59pm on Tue 24 Mar for travel until Wed 25 Mar and the £24 return is valid on Sun-Fri return journeys only (Saturday sailings are from £29).
Tickets we found that cost £24 in this offer are usually £20-£30 for a return ticket alone. So, although you may be able to find a return ticket slightly cheaper, when you factor in the six bottles of Vive La Vie wine (worth £18ish), this works out as a decent offer if you’re heading over to stock up on booze anyway.
How to ensure you get the deal
When you book your ticket via the link above, make sure it says 'Promotion' next to the selection you've picked. Return tickets that cost exactly £24 (or £29 on Sat) are 'saver' tickets and will show up as £12 each way. This is its most basic ticket type and there is no flexibility on travel dates and time and they're non-refundable.
Make sure you bring your booking reference number on the day to check-in. Show your voucher (issued at check-in) in the onboard shop on the outward journey only to get your six bottles of Vive La Vie red, white or rose wine. You can't mix and match your wines.
Up to nine people can travel together in one car. The earliest ferry out is at 00.45am and the latest inbound ferry leaves Calais at 11.25pm. Excludes mini buses, motor homes, vans, caravans and trailers.
Pets are not allowed. If wine is unavailable, P&O Ferries will offer a substitute wine. Tickets are subject to availability.
Before spending, use Martin's Mantras. If you answer 'NO' to any, Don't buy!
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