AmEx on the line over cheque refunds

Roger Pearson looks ahead

A High Court action which questions the practices of traveller's cheque companies when dealing with refund claims is scheduled to reach the High Court early next year.

Although some cheque companies stress the value of instant refunds if cheques are lost or stolen abroad, solicitor Jonathan Armstrong, of Cleveland-based Smith & Graham who is spear-heading the pending action, questions if refunds are as easy to obtain as publicity suggests.

Armstrong is acting for Andrew Gladman of Hartlepool, in a claim against American Express. Gladman bought u900 worth of traveller's cheques in July 1991. He bought them because of American Express' publicity giving the "assurance of the world's most comprehensive refund and travel assistance service".

However, he says that he only cashed three cheques worth u150 during his holiday. The rest were stolen from the safe in his hotel room. But he says when he phoned American Express it failed to live up to the promises of its publicity. Far from providing refunds within 24 hours, he says he is still waiting for a refund.

Now, he is suing American Express accusing it of breach of contract and breach of a collateral warranty.

Gladman is seeking compensation for the lost cheques, the loss of enjoyment of the remaining 12 days of his u345 holiday and other costs, including u40 on telephone calls to England incurred as a result of what happened.

Armstrong finds the level of information demanded by American Express in the run up to the court case "unusual and quite frightening".

Although Gladman paid for the cheques when he received them, American Express is asking if he was working at the time, where he was working, what his earnings were, where he got the money to purchase the cheques, bank account and other details. Armstrong says that, the cheques having been paid for beforehand, he fails to see the relevance of the company's request.