When John Matthews insured his car with Saga he thought he had the strength of the insurer behind him, but a claim for a minor prang ended up with it being trashed by a scrap merchant.
The retired Lee-on-the-Solent draughtsman is the owner of a pristine automatic low-mileage 12-year-old Kia Picanto, a set of wheels of which he is justly proud.
But last June, much to his exasperation, a council truck reversed into the rear of his pride and joy while he was parked up in the street.
The corner of the truck struck the middle of the car, shattering the rear screen, damaging the fender, and leaving a minor but nasty dent to the tailgate.
A gutted John arrived on the scene to find his car full of glass fragments, and an embarrassed truck driver phoning his supervisor for instructions about exchanging particulars.
He thought the incident would be just be a straightforward accident claim but called in Streetwise when he was left out of pocket by hundreds of pounds after Saga bungled and sent the car to be scrapped.
John said: ‘I contacted Saga my insurer to register an accident claim.
‘On their instructions it was taken to a firm in Emsworth to have the damage inspected.
‘About a week later I got a call from an assessor who told me the car was a total loss. The cost of repairing it would be more than it was worth.
‘Because of its condition and low mileage I was offered £1,400 tops but it would have been virtually impossible to find a comparable car for that money.
‘I’ve got a garage friend who is in the repair business so I’d already decided to have the car back and get it sorted privately.
‘The following day I rang the assessor to find out where my car was and what they were proposing to do with it.
‘To my astonishment they said they hadn’t got it. It had been taken to Newbury, 50-odd miles away.’
‘I got onto Saga to find out what was happening, and after speaking to two people trying to get an explanation I asked for my car back.
‘It was returned the following weekend and I was shocked to find it had gone to a scrapyard. It had stickers on the windscreen, and a number of pink markings to allocate parts for salvage.’
John (78) was furious to discover the wheel trims on both sides of his car had already been ripped away and the interior mirror was missing. He couldn’t even start the car because the ignition key had also been damaged and was unserviceable.
Outraged, he got back on to Saga and asked them what the game was. It was his property and they they’d no right to send it to a third party to be trashed without his knowledge or agreement.
‘They had chance to tell me,’ John explained, ‘because I spoke to someone at Saga the previous day but I was never told what was happening to the car.
‘I was so annoyed to think what they’d done and the way they’d treated me. It was always one hell of a job to get hold of them I had no help at all from Saga’s claims department to be honest.’
We got on to Saga and expressed concern at the lack of internal communication and the way in which John’s claim had been handled.
We also helped him put in an additional claim for £376 to cover the cost of replacing the missing parts and the damaged ignition key.
To its credit Saga were prompt in agreeing the claim hadn’t been handled to its usual high standards.
It explained it had received a call from John’s garage about some additional damage but due to data protection restrictions had been unable to discuss it with a third party.
A spokesperson said: ‘Customers have the option to retain the car in these situations if they want to get their cars repaired themselves and that was what happened in this case.
‘Having reviewed the case file we are taking the matter up with the parties concerned to express our dissatisfaction with the service provided.
‘We have arranged to reimburse Mr Matthews for the additional costs he has incurred and we’ve also offered him £100 to compensate for the inconvenience this has caused.’
When we told John about the outcome, he was grateful his frustration with Saga was finally over and he hadn’t ended up out of pocket.
He said: ‘I can’t thank you enough for your help.’
In fighting John’s corner and sorting out his problem we passed another milestone in chalking up more than £150,000 in compensation and refunds for readers.
Streetwise has highlighted hundreds of complaints about faulty goods, shonky workmanship, and unacceptable customer service. Rogue trading has been exposed and unfair practices highlighted.
After months of trying to get incorrect gas and electricity accounts sorted, our intervention has helped stressed and worried readers have their bills written off.
Others were advised about their statutory rights and assisted pursuing legal claims against traders who had failed to sort out their complaints and refused to give them a square deal.