Questions Of Cash: Car repair claim has driven me round the bend


Q. In October 2008 I bought a second-hand Chrysler Grand Voyager, paying an extra £1,000 premium for a three-year policy from AA Warranty. I enquired about making a claim and was referred to Motorway Direct. When I phoned I was held for over an hour, at which point I hung up.

The phone message said that an initial enquiry about the validity of a claim can be made online, but I trawled the website and was unable to find anywhere to do this. It seems impossible to get in touch with anyone to discuss a fault that may be covered by the insurance, other than by email.

The reply to my email failed to provide the requested web link to check whether a claim would be valid and instead referred me to Halfords Autocentre. When I spoke to Halfords I was told it would take 19 days for an appointment to obtain a diagnosis. I couldn't wait that long, so I made my own arrangements for a repair at a garage at a cost of £741. The policy states that "you must contact us in the first instance" before arranging for a repair. Yet it seems impossible to do so. PH, by email.

A. The AA apologises for the situation. Its spokesman Ian Crowder says: "It appears the problem was that Halfords Autocentres couldn't book the customer in promptly. The trouble [the reader] had contacting AA Warranty was simply because of a high volume of calls, but I'm told that the contact made through the website was promptly responded to. He was referred to Halfords Autocentres as a first course of action to identify the problem and, indeed, this is the national network that AA Warranty normally refers customer to." The AA says that if you had told AA Warranty about the difficulty you had in booking your car into Halfords, you would have been referred to another garage. The claim has now been settled and you have received a cheque for £741, which includes the cost of replacing brake pads – not normally covered by your policy.

Q. I was interested to read the article "Crafty Online Fees" (The Independent, 13 August), [which reported that the Office of Fair Trading is investigating web-based businesses that charge for information that is publicly available free of charge, possibly breaching consumer protection laws]. I too fell for one of these websites and paid £14.99 for something I could have had for free. However, I was more concerned that I'd given this website important personal and financial information such as bank card details, passport numbers and so on. Will the OFT during the course of its investigation consider this? FB, Sheffield.

A. A spokesman for the OFT says: "The focus of the investigation is on potential breaches of consumer protection law. The Information Commissioner's Office enforces data protection law, but if we became aware of data protection concerns during the course of our investigation, we would liaise with them." Details of the inquiry are available at oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/consumer-enforcement/consumer-enforcement-current/government-services.

Q. My business partner and I purchased an investment property for £250,000 in 2004, of which we put down £50,000 in cash and borrowed £200,000 from Lloyds Bank. Soon after, we purchased the adjoining investment property for another £250,000, again putting down £50,000 ourselves and borrowing another £200,000 from Lloyds.

Initially I managed the properties, before instructing a professional property management company to undertake the role. As we purchased additional investment properties, we gave this company further properties to manage. In 2008, I requested a further loan from Lloyds for additional properties and was surprised to find that our account was in arrears. Lloyds had not advised me of this, or sent me a statement on my commercial accounts for some time. I contacted the property management company, which told me there had been a delay in receiving some payments because of a change in tenancy arrangements, but that the arrears would soon be cleared when a backlog of rent was paid.

This never happened and the property management company closed soon after. The arrears then built-up further and Lloyds' relationship manager asked us for a face-to-face meeting. We were told our loan accounts would be moved over to recovery – this meant that the bank would sell the properties to recover the loans.

We explained the reasons for the arrears and agreed with the relationship manager that we would take a series of steps to improve rental income, including a programme of refurbishment, and would pay the bank £3,000 a month from our resources, in return for Lloyds holding back on recovery action. We acted on this basis, until in April 2009 a tenant told us he had been instructed to make future rental payments to a receiver, not to us. Lloyds has lost £8,600 of payments that we paid into our account and now denies that our meeting with the relationship manager ever took place. DC, Huddersfield.

A. There is a long standing disagreement between yourself and your business partner on the one side and Lloyds on the other. Lloyds does not accept your version of events, in particular about an agreement having been entered into on how to wind-down the debt. The Financial Ombudsman has reviewed the matter and failed to uphold your complaint. There is little we can do when matters have got as far as this. The matter is further complicated by the fact that the receivers are legally bound to act independently of Lloyds or any other creditor and that the Crown Prosecution Service is involved. We understand, however, that the value of the asset sales will exceed your debt to Lloyds. A spokesman for Lloyds says: "We have done everything possible to support this customer."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@ independent.co.uk.

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