Question of Cash: Left out of pocket after my BMW was stolen


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The Independent Online

Q. I had my BMW car stolen in September. I bought it in December 2011 for £2,400. Since then, it has been properly serviced and I had a new exhaust and alloy wheels fitted. I have provided the police report to my insurers. They have offered £1,500 minus £245 for the non-standard wheels and applied an excess of £350. So the total payment offered is only £905.

I refused this, but the insurer says if I want more I must provide an example of a similar vehicle, with similar mileage, similar age, similar condition and in the same area. This is practically impossible. My insurance was taken out with the RAC, which has referred me to Cunningham & Lindsey, which has referred me to The Co-operative Insurance. They are running me round in circles. CM, by email.

A. Your policy was brokered by the RAC and underwritten by The Co-operative Insurance. Cunningham & Lindsey are the loss adjusters.

A spokeswoman for The Co-operative Insurance says: "During the course of the investigation of his claim, we became aware that [the reader] had modified his vehicle by adding alloy wheels. Whilst The Co-operative Insurance does not insure modified vehicles, we appreciate that [the reader] was unaware that alloy wheels are considered a modification, and so following a review we agreed to assist with his claim as normal, but to deduct the cost of the alloy wheels - £245 - from the claim settlement, as is standard practice in this type of circumstance.

Before offering a claim settlement, we use a number of independent assessment methods to conduct a review of similar vehicles so we can determine the current market value of a car. After reviewing this, we offered [the reader] £1,500 to settle his claim minus the cost of the alloy wheels and his policy excess, a net total of £905.

As he did not feel this was a satisfactory amount, we carried out another detailed review of the average value of his car and as a result we increased the amount to £1,600 minus his policy excess. We also waived the cost of the alloy wheels as a gesture of goodwill, and paid an additional £100 for personal possessions which were stolen from the car – a net total of £1,350." Although you feel that this still undervalues the car, you have now accepted this offer, which is £445 more than the offer made prior to you contacting us.

Q. I paid £130 to Domestic & General Insurance for warranty cover for my oven. I contacted them on 13 November about a fault. On 19 November, an engineer arrived and promised to return with parts. More than two weeks later he has not returned. When we phoned we were told the parts were now in and the contractor would contact us – he has not done so.

I am very unhappy with this service and I am now considering cancelling the insurance to obtain a service that is more reliable, or alternatively buying a new oven with an extended warranty – which looks like a cheaper option. CK, by email.

A. You were, understandably, very keen to have an oven working for Christmas. Unfortunately, it was not possible to obtain the necessary spare parts to repair your existing oven, nor source a new oven that fitted the space in your kitchen in time for Christmas.

A new model will be delivered in mid January, which has been paid for as a goodwill gesture by Domestic & General on a new-for-old basis. A spokesman for the insurer adds: "We have also waived the outstanding premium, which the customer under normal circumstances would be required to pay prior to a replacement order being placed." Domestic & General apologises for the difficulties you encountered in resolving the situation prior to our involvement.

Q. I opened a current account with Alliance & Leicester in December 2008. A&L was subsequently acquired by Santander. I was not using the account regularly and decided to close it early in 2010. I telephoned Santander and was told that I would have to write in to close the account and to notify my change of address as I had moved in April 2009.

During this call I requested that all direct debits were cancelled with immediate effect and I followed this up with a letter as requested. At this point my balance was nil. Earlier this year, I applied for a mortgage and was refused one due to a poor credit rating. Until then my rating had been excellent and I often received unsolicited offers of credit.

After signing up with Experian, I discovered the source of the poor rating was a default account with Santander – the one I had closed in 2010. I lodged a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman and Santander agreed to credit the account with £329 to clear the balance, which had accrued from charges and late payment fees as a result of the account not being closed as instructed. But I was told the default would remain on my credit file.

I have reapplied for a mortgage, having been told that if the account was cleared my application would be reconsidered. But I now find that my credit file is still showing a default. I could take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman again, but it has warned me this process could take months to complete. The vendor of the property I am seeking to buy has told me I have only three weeks. SH, by email.

A. A spokeswoman for Santander says: "No written request was received from [the reader] to close her account. However, we have reviewed the case and agreed to update [the reader's] credit file.

The default notice has now been removed." Credit reference agency Experian confirms that your file has been updated, with Santander removing its default. Despite this, it would be sensible for you to check with the other credit reference agencies – Equifax and CallCredit – that their files have also been updated.

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