Mar 052009
 

Repair BillsExperts are warning of an alarming rise in garages recommending ‘phantom’ repair work to motorists.

Analysis of claims work submitted by customers of the industry’s leading provider of direct consumer warranties, Warranty Direct, over the past six months shows the practice of inflating repair bills with additional work is increasing.

The practice is more common amongst franchised dealers. In one case, a customer was quoted for work that amounted to 2,200 percent more than the actual repairs necessary*.

“It’s a sad state of affairs but some are simply trying it on,” says Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct. “We’re finding ourselves policing garages on behalf of our customers.”

Warranty Direct uses independent inspectors to assess quoted work where its engineers have raised suspicions.

In the most extreme case, a Peugeot workshop claimed that a car’s entire fuel system should be replaced at a cost of £2,895.76 after fuel contamination was reported. Following inspection by an independent engineer, it was discovered that only the fuel filter needed replacing at a cost of just £131.71.

The concern for Warranty Direct is simple: the general public do not necessarily have the mechanical knowledge to question quoted work, unless they have access to a qualified second opinion and the protection that a good extended warranty provides.

“Our claims engineers are highly trained and experienced garage workshop mechanics, which is why we’re able to spot unrelated or unnecessary repairs. This won’t be the case for the average owner taking a car in for regular service or a health check,” warns McClure Fisher.  “This is a worrying development and we are releasing our findings not only to protect the motorist but also to allow some unscrupulous garages to get their houses back in order in the interests of the industry as a whole.”

Table showing examples of inflated bills after ‘vehicle health inspections’

Vehicle

Peugeot 406

Volkswagen Golf

Mercedes E Class

Original fault

Fuel filter

Engine warning   light staying on

Differential oil   seal leaking

Cost

£131.71

£21.92

£305.93

Additional work   suggested

Replacement of fuel   system

Replacement of   wishbone and anti-roll bar bushes

Replacement of   lower ball joints

Cost

£2,764.05

£293.44

£138

Total bill

£2,895.76

£315.36

£443.93

 

Other examples highlighted include a Vauxhall garage which claimed that both front shock absorbers, road springs, track control arms and outer ball joints needed replacing on a Signum 1.9TD, at a cost of £720.60.  In fact, only the offside front road spring needed changing, costing £170.58 – less than a quarter of the original bill.

In another case, the replacement of wishbone and anti-roll bar bushes for a customer of a Volkswagen Golf cost £293.44 when the original failure was to investigate a faulty engine warning light. The real bill should have been just £21.92.

The owner of a Mercedes E Class saloon with a differential oil seal leak was informed he needed to replace the lower ball joints adding another £138 to the bill. Inspection proved this was unnecessary.

Last year, Warranty Direct research showed that garage labour rates have increased by 11.3 percent since the summer of 2006, with the most expensive franchised dealers now charging over £200 an hour for their mechanic’s time.

Mar 052009
 

Honestjohn HAT AwardReading-based warranty supplier, Warranty Direct, is one of the first five automotive companies in the UK to be recognised as one of the UK’s best for customer services by a new award.

Honestjohn.co.uk has launched its Highly Approved Trader (HAT) standard to champion motoring companies that have illustrated best practice and outstanding customer service.

Honestjohn.co.uk was born out of the Honest John column in the Daily Telegraph, which attracts 3 million readers every Saturday. Honest John is a motoring writer and former car trader, whose online forum is now one of the biggest and most popular in the UK, averaging up to 400 new postings every day.

Warranty Direct is the UK’s leading suppliers of direct automotive warranty cover, and was the first company in the UK to cover wear and tear, as well as faults found during service and MOT procedures. It has also campaigned for several years on behalf of the motorist on topics such as potholes and garage labour rates.

“Warranty Direct remains the leading provider of direct automotive warranties in the UK and was the first to cover wear and tear and faults found during routine service and MOT procedures in its policies,” said Warranty Direct Managing Director, Duncan McClure Fisher. “We welcome Honest John’s HAT standard initiative, and we’re delighted to be among the first to be recognised for maintaining the highest level of customer care and value.”

Honestjohn.co.uk offers advice on anything from technical matters to car reviews for people buying a new or used vehicle. Like Warranty Direct, Honest John has always championed the motorist and aims to give drivers greater buying confidence.

With cover starting from as little as £15 a month, visit www.warrantydirect.co.uk or call freephone 0800 731 7001 for more information.

Mar 032009
 

potholesThis year’s cold weather has caused a sharp increase in the number of cars being damaged by potholes, according to Warranty Direct.

Following the coldest start to winter in more than 30 years and temperatures that dropped as low as minus 18,* the UK’s leading direct consumer warranty provider had already recorded a 13 percent year-on-year increase in pothole-related axle and suspension damage in January.

With the wintry weather experienced across the UK during the first two weeks of February, that figure is expected to rise dramatically once claims roll in for damage done by rutted and potholed roads.

The “freeze and thaw” effect accelerates road surface weathering and the creation of more potholes. When the temperature drops, rainwater, which has found its way into cracks in the tarmac, expands and breaks up the bitumen. With frost on half the days in December, this will have been happening on a daily basis*.

“The problem is only going to get worse over the next week or so,” warns Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct, in response to the worst snowfall to hit Britain in 18 years.

“With a £1 billion shortfall in road maintenance budgets across the country**, local councils will have their work cut out repairing pothole damaged roads”, he says. “It’s a surefire bet that the number of claims we see will rise.”

Warranty Direct’s average claim for repairs to suspension damaged by potholes is £240, with the most expensive claim in 2008 costing £2710.

Anyone who spots a pothole can find details of how to report it to their local council through www.potholes.co.uk. The website also gives advice on how to claim compensation if your car has been damaged by poorly maintained roads.