Heavy snow wreaked havoc across the UK last week, causing widespread disruption. But if you lost out as a result, you may be able to get your money back.
Here's a quick summary of your rights – see full details below:
- If you were due to go to an event which was cancelled, you're likely due a refund – see full help on your consumer rights.
- If you had a booking or tickets to an event but couldn't get there, it's harder – see what you can try.
- Thousands have been left without water due to burst pipes – see if you're due water outage compensation.
- If you lost power you MAY be due compensation – see power cut compensation.
- Many are due a 'cold weather payment' of £25 – check your eligibility.
- 100s of flights were cancelled last week – see your refund rights.
- Trains across the UK were delayed or cancelled – check if you're due cash.
- Grocery and parcel deliveries faced massive disruption – see your delivery rights.
- The icy weather's resulted in lots more potholes – check if you can claim if your car's been damaged.
An event I was due to go to was cancelled – will I get my money back?
Many in the worst hit areas had their plans disrupted, with everything from concerts and plays to smaller events cancelled at the last minute. If that happened to you, you should have been offered an alternative date or refund. If not, you should demand one from whoever organised the event.
What's the law behind this? Well, 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 isn't possible, you can instead ask for your money back.
This should apply even if firms allow for bad weather cancellations or postponements in their T&Cs. Peter Stonely from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute told us: "Any such terms must be fair and balanced. Consumers who are unable to make the rearranged date should be offered a refund instead."
Unfortunately, we have heard of refunds being refused. For example, MSE Megan was told she couldn't get a refund after a £420 hen-do event she'd booked in Wales was cancelled. If you're refused a refund and you think the company's being unreasonable you can report it to Trading Standards via Citizens Advice (MSE Megan's going to do this).
If you booked the event using a credit or debit card, you may also be able to claim from your card 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 costing 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, just a customer service promise. But it's worth trying. You may be covered by the Visa, Mastercard or American Express chargeback protection schemes – see our Chargeback guide for details on how to claim.
What if I had a booking or tickets for an event but couldn't get there?
In this situation it's harder to claim. Depending on the T&Cs of your booking, companies don't necessarily have to give a refund if the event went ahead but you couldn't make it due to travel disruption.
If you were supposed to travel by train, 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', except for exceptional circumstances. There's nothing to stop you trying to claim though there are no guarantees it will work.
It's worth contacting the company concerned to explain the situation and ask what it can offer. Center Parcs, for example, is allowing those unable to get to its sites to swap their holiday for an alternative date, while Airbnb has said some unable to get to their booking can claim full refunds under its 'severe weather' policy.
It's also worth checking if you were covered by your travel insurance policy, if you have one.
Can I claim compensation if 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've lost water as a result of a burst water pipe which isn't on your property, your water company must tell you your supply has been interrupted, and must also provide at least 10 litres of water per person per day until running water is restored. Many companies have set up water collection points at supermarkets and car parks – see our Thousands left without water MSE News story for more info.
Ofwat, the water regulator for England and Wales, says you're entitled to:
- At least £20 compensation if your supply is off for 48 hours, and £10 for each 24-hour period after that.
- £25 compensation if water pressure falls below the required level twice within a 28-day period, for more than an hour each time.
While you may sometimes not be due this compensation if extreme weather prevents repair, Ofwat says it DOES expect water firms to pay out following last week's weather.
Ofwat says water companies should pay this compensation automatically, yet if you don't receive it you must claim it within three months of the problem – so if you're unsure, check with your water firm.
Be aware these rules only apply to burst pipes which AREN'T on your property.
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 was 'graded' by energy regulator Ofgem. This grading is determined by how many major faults a firm had in a 24-hour period. It can take up to two weeks following the event for the weather classification to be submitted to Ofgem by your local grid, 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?
You may be able to. 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.
The Government's confirmed that cold weather payments WERE triggered in many areas last week. You can use its postcode checker to see if your area was affected.
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 eligibility criteria.
My flight was cancelled – what are my rights?
Hundreds of flights were cancelled because of the snow, with several major airports affected.
If your flight was cancelled, regardless of how long before take-off or 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'd booked a return ticket and either of your legs was cancelled.
- An alternative flight. If you still wanted to travel, your airline should have found you an alternative flight. Depending on your preference, this should have been 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 didn't, 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. 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. Here are the 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. If you weren't, contact the train company running the service to claim. (The rules are slightly different for season ticket holders though – 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? Some train firms put emergency timetables in place – if so, it may affect what you can claim. If you booked ahead of time before an emergency timetable was put in place and then chose not to travel, you're due a full refund.
However, if you did decide to travel and was then delayed, the compensation you're due will be based on the emergency timetable not the usual timetable.
If an emergency timetable was already in place when you bought your ticket, your usual compensation rights apply – but delays will be measured against the emergency timetable not the usual timetable.
For lots more, including how to claim and the rules if you missed a connection, see our Train Delays guide.
My delivery was late or didn't arrive – what can I do?
Parcel and grocery deliveries were also impacted last week.
If you were expecting a delivery and it didn't turn up, hopefully you've managed to rearrange it or get a refund by now. If not, call to sort it as soon as you can. The major supermarkets will allow you to rearrange your delivery slot or offer a full refund, though with parcels remember companies technically have up to 30 days to deliver goods if they didn't give you an explicit date for delivery.
If you took time off last week to wait for a delivery that didn't show and will now have to take extra time off, it's unlikely you'll be able to claim compensation for this, given the extreme weather.
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 info.
Pothole damaged your car? You MAY be able to claim
Snow and ice can cause potholes in the roads, which in turn can cause serious damage to your vehicle.
You may, however, be able to claim for any repairs if you can prove the pothole caused the damage, and that the authority responsible for maintaining the relevant stretch of road should have fixed the pothole.
We've heard of motorists reclaiming £100s for damage. See our Pothole Claims guide for full help, including how to collect evidence, how to claim and what to do if you're turned down.