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Why do insurance companies ask you to get your car fixed at a garage of their choice?

Malcolm Tarling from the Association of British Insurers explaines: "The reason they do that is really to make life easier for you and to save you having to go round getting 3 or 4 estimates from different garages. And it's helpful for insurers as well, because insurers know that they're not going to be over-charged. This helps keep premiums as low as possible for all motorists. The reason that the insurance company suggested you go to [an approved] garage in the first place is that the garage would carry out a decent repair as quickly and as effective as possible - if that's not happened, complain to the insurance company - you've every right to.

" NOTE: the Association of British Insurers say that you don't have to take your car to an insurance company's 'approved' garage - but you should always check with the insurers before taking it elsewhwere.

When somebody dented the passenger door of Gemma John's shiny black Escort, she claimed on her Tesco car insurance which she had with Tesco Personal Finance. The Escort went for repair at one of Tesco's "approved" garages: the Nationwide Crash Repair Centre in Bridgend. It was supposed to be ready in 8 days but the car's now been in and out of the garage for four months and Gemma, from Ynysybwl, has been very unhappy with the standard of the work.

Gemma says: "I wasn't happy at all. I've taken 6 days off work and have had to travel over 400 miles back and forth from Bridgend. I've made over 70 phone alls now between myself and the insurance - and to the garage as well - and things are still not quite there. I feel like I'm banging my head on a brick wall." Unhappy with the repairs, Gemma wanted to get the work redone by a local Ford specialist but she says Tesco advised her to stick with their approved garage. X-Ray contacted the Association of British Insurers to ask why insurance companies advise you to get your car repaired at a garage of their choice.

Well Gemma says she's complained in writing to Tesco on numerous occasions but says her letters have gone unacknowledged. X-Ray contacted Tesco. They admitted that Gemma had clearly been let down and deeply regret what's happened. They say it'll be raised at the highest level. They're going to investigate what went wrong at the garage, and will take remedial action if necessary. They said that Gemma could get her car repaired at a garage of her choice and that they would refund her 250 excess PLUS all of her costs and give her compensation. Nationwide Crash Repair Centres Ltd also apologised to Gemma.

More insurance stories....

X-Ray Lawyer Simon Mumford heads for Mid Wales to help a viewer whose car caught fire whilst it was in the garage for repairs. Peter Anderson from Llanfyllin bought his nearly new Kia car last year, from dealer Wadham Kenning in Shrewbury, and paid just over 5,600 for it. It was still under warranty when it developed a burning smell six months later. So Peter took it back to the garage - which is part of the international Inchcape group - for repairs.

While it was there they gave him a courtesy car. But that was just the beginning of his problems. The dealership asked Peter to sort out insurance cover for the courtesy car. "The insurance was transferred from my vehicle onto Inchcape's courtesy car," Peter explained. "Inchcape then had my vehicle from Monday to Friday." Peter says Inchcape told him they would take responsibility for the vehicle while it was on their site. But the following Friday it was moved to another garage in Telford, where the work was going to be done, and on Sunday night the car went up in flames. "We were informed Monday teatime," said Peter. "When we went over on

Tuesday morning it was just a burnt out wreck. We're devastated. The last four months we haven't known which way to turn. There's been nobody to help." Surprisingly, garages are not required to have insurance to cover cars that are in their care. If there's a break in or there's a problem and damage is caused to the car they're not automatically responsible. Obviously if they have caused the damage themselves by moving it around or something like that then they are responsible. But because Peter transferred his insurance cover off his car and onto the courtesy car, he couldn't claim against his insurance. By insuring the courtesy car Peter had left his own car uninsured. And even though Inchcape had accepted responsibility for it whilst it was at their premises Peter says he wasn't told the garage would not be liable when the car was moved to another garage.

As far as he was concerned, they were taking responsibility for the vehicle, and that was fine. Simon believes that Peter's conversation at the garage when they told him they were taking responsibility for the car could constitute a verbal contract. "Now the fact that they have had the car, then transferred it to another garage isn't your fault. It may not be easy but you've certainly got a claim," he told Peter. "It isn't your fault so don't give up and keep going, and the best of luck." Points to Remember If you're leaving your car with a garage for any length of time, be sure to check if they are taking legal responsibility for it - and get their written confirmation. And if a garage asks you to provide insurance for a courtesy car, consider extending your policy instead of shifting your cover - it may be a little bit more expensive, but it may save you a lot in the long run X-Ray have since spoken to Inchcape.

They agree that if the car had been at their garage when the fire happened they would have been liable. BUT because the vehicle was on another company's site they say they're not liable. But it's not all bad news because Inchcape have now written to Peter and agreed - as a gesture of goodwill - to offer him a replacement car worth the same amount as his KIA - that's more than five and a half thousand pounds. He must be a very happy man!



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