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Can you pause season tickets, Sky Sports or car insurance during lockdown?

Miles Brignall
·3-min read

You are paying monthly for your car insurance – but no longer using your car. You have an expensive season ticket for travel into work on the train – but now you are at home. You’re paying for a football TV channel – but there are no matches. And your daughter is back from her closed university – but is still having to pay residence hall fees. What payments can be frozen and what refunds can you request during the coronavirus crisis?

Car insurance

If your car has barely moved for the last two weeks and you are wondering why you are still paying £150 a month to insure it, you are not alone. Readers have asked whether they can pause their insurance, particularly as they are set to receive only 80% of their wages. The answer? Unfortunately, it’s not easy.

Insurers say they set the premium at the start of the policy and the cost reflects the risk at that time. You could try lowering your predicted annual mileage, or take drivers off the policy, but this will rarely achieve big savings – especially when admin fees of about £30 are applied.

If you really need to cut your outgoings, you can tell the DVLA you are taking the car off the road with a statutory off road notification (Sorn), and cancelling the insurance. Check the savings and fees before you go ahead. You will also save the car tax for any full months it is off the road. Be aware that it has to be off the highway and it will not be covered if it is stolen in this time.

The AA has said it will allow drivers to pause breakdown cover for now but the RAC has not.

Season ticket refunds

An empty tube train on London’s Piccadilly line’
An empty tube train on London’s Piccadilly line’ Photograph: Paul Marriott/Rex/Shutterstock

In the capital, Transport for London says users can now apply online for a backdated Oyster card refund, provided they bought the ticket from TfL and there is at least six weeks remaining on an annual ticket, or seven days left on monthly tickets. Users need to apply within eight weeks of their last journey.

For season tickets in the rest of the country, passengers have to go back to the train company that sold them the ticket. Operators hope to have a remote system in place soon. Users have eight weeks to apply.

Student halls

Most universities have said students will no longer have to pay for halls of residence now they are closed. The fact that many students may not have emptied their rooms is not a barrier.

Unite, one of the biggest private hall providers, is also waiving charges – but only if the student says they will not be returning next term. Those not returning must inform it by email by 5pm on 10 April.

Sports TV packages

Sky and Virgin Media are offering customers the chance to pause sports channels, which typically cost about £30 a month. You have to log on to actively ask for the delay and you will still have access to the channels. Once sports restart, customers will be automatically billed again. BT is offering customers a month’s worth of credit. Again, you have to ask for it – online.

Sports and the arts

The Tate Britain museum.
The Tate Britain museum. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Gyms mostly shut at the start of the lockdown and have paused memberships accordingly. However, there are plenty of tennis, golf, squash and other sports clubs that are shut but not offering to pause or extend memberships.

The Golf Club Managers’ Association says while some clubs will be able to pause membership deals, others will not as “as they are only just managing to survive. These clubs are relying on the loyalty of their members and the understanding that there may not be a club to come back to once this is all over.”

Museums such as the Tate, and bodies such as the National Theatre, rely on income from membership. As stages and galleries are quiet, they will be hoping that not too many members ask for money back.