'A surprised man told me nothing had been done to my car'

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The Independent Online

In the Middle Ages, a certain type of person lived in a monastery and argued long and passionately about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Today these people work in the claims departments of insurance companies.

In the Middle Ages, a certain type of person lived in a monastery and argued long and passionately about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Today these people work in the claims departments of insurance companies.

Last week I complained about having my car pinched, police apathy and the tortuous process of claiming against my car insurance policy. Sadly, the saga had only just started.

The story so far: My car was stolen the previous Thursday, then abandoned down the street, its ignition system ripped out. I informed the police and the AA (who I was insured with), and arranged to have it towed to an AA-accedited garage. Last Monday the garage in north London told me "the engineer from your insurance company Eagle Star will be inspecting your car this afternoon." I hadn't looked before, but the AA documents said it had been acting as a broker for Eagle Star.

So far so good although I was somewhat miffed not to have been given a courtesy car, which I thought I was entitled to under my comprehensive policy. The garage said it "wouldn't have one until 3 July". I left it until this Thursday, when I rang the garage to see when I could pick my own car up.

A surprised man told me nothing had been done to my car. "We expected an engineer on Monday, but no-one came," he said. "You better contact your insurance company." And the courtesy car? "A man called Costas will call you in five minutes' time. "

Nobody called in a quarter of an hour, so I phoned Eagle Star and was told by a clearly irritated claimants woman there was no record of the garage requesting an engineer's inspection. Moreover, I was not entitled to a courtesy car until the engineer had decided the car was repairable. They couldn't hand out courtesy cars to people whose cars were right-offs, could they? Well, no. But nobody had said the car wasn't repairable. In fact, the garage had suggested its repair would take "about a week."

When she told me inspections were dealt with by a different section and she would call them I rang off and got back to the AA, which directed me to a complaints line, where I vented my spleen to a long-suffering chap called Phil Giles.

Yes, he said, I should be the one chasing the garage and Eagles Star, and yes, the engineer should inspect a "borderline case" as if it wasn't repairable no courtesy car should be provided. He did accept Eagle Star and the garage haven't communicated with each other effectively and said he would get a senior colleague to make sure an inspection is made as soon as possible.

I was also told you don't qualify for a courtesy car until the mechanic actually starts the repair and if the car I paid £7,000 for two and a half years ago was a right-off, it would probably be worth around £2,000 in a claim - and there certainly wouldn't be a courtesy car.

Weakened by the cut and thrust, I left the phone alone. Then Lynn from Eagle Star (not the rude one) rang: "An engineer will inspect the car tomorrow. If you call you'll get a courtesy car. And yes, the car is repairable. Sorry about that."

Stand by for next week's thrilling instalment.

John Willcock is the Personal Finance Editor of The Independent, email j.willcock@independent.co.uk

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