Leigh Park pensioner's anger after Currys PC World driver crashes into her garden wall
Last February 84-year-old Edna Bennett couldn’t believe her eyes when she returned to her West Leigh home only to discover part of her front garden wall had been knocked down by a Currys PC World hit and run delivery driver.
It didn’t take long for her next door neighbour to confirm he’d been alerted by the impact. On opening his front door saw an unmarked white van speeding off down the road but too far away to read the number plate.
Edna said: ‘It seems the driver took a right turn into the road opposite my house, reversed, smashing into my front wall, leaving me with a £600 bill and damage to my garden.
‘It kept me awake nearly all night thinking about things. Someone obviously had something delivered or collected from a nearby house, and luckily when I made enquires the next day I knocked on the right door.
‘The neighbour confirmed she’d had a freezer collected about 2.30 the previous day, and she gave me everything from the paperwork, even the transaction number.
‘I phoned the contact number she’d given me and explained what had happened and was told someone would get back to me.
‘But when I hadn’t heard anything, I kept calling and all I got was that the matter was in hand and they’d get back to me.’
‘In early April, I was finally given a code number which identified the incident and the driver.
‘When I phoned up quoting the number all I kept getting from the customer care people was they’d get back to me. I just kept getting fobbed off.’
‘About a month later my son told me write to The News about it. He’d sent the firm an email but it drew a blank and wasn’t answered.’
When Edna wrote to Streetwise we immediately got onto Currys PC World and asked them to explain why she’d been given the cold shoulder for so long.
They responded by confirming they’d checked their records and obtained details of the incident, including the driver, something they could easily have done four months earlier.
When we pressed them to explain the unacceptable and inordinate delay in providing Edna with the information she needed to make an insurance claim, it emerged the delivery driver wasn’t employed by them but a sub-contracted transport company.
A spokesperson told us: ‘We have investigated thoroughly and the drivers’ dispute that they caused the damage. As the drivers are employed by a third-party franchisee, we have provided Mrs Bennett with the contact details for the franchisee’s insurers who do not believe they are liable for the damage.
The Currys PC World response echoed complaints from other Streetwise readers who’d previously spent months doing battle with the high street electrical retailer trying to obtain satisfaction with smash and dash garden wall demolition claims.
Like Edna they’d been stonewalled by a routine of refusing to accept any responsibility and a culture of denial by offending drivers denying responsibility for the damage.
Although Edna had finally been told by the firm’s customer services that they’d traced the driver, they just kept repeating it was nothing to do with them.
We took the view that getting a person of her advanced years to jump through bureaucratic insurance hoops she knew little about to get her wall rebuilt was morally reprehensible. The hassle she’d received from their customer services representatives was devoid of all empathy and completely unacceptable.
We first checked with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau to find out whether they could deal with the compensation claim on her behalf, but they confirmed there was a time limit of three months from the date of the incident, and that had been well exceeded by Currys PC World shilly-shallying.
They told us that hit and run claims were on the up. Although many were the result of uninsured or banned drivers trying to escape detection, a significant number were down to negligent drivers avoiding responsibility for damage to property.
Having drawn a blank with the bureau, we put Edna’s plight back to Currys PC World top boss CEO Alexander Baldock, and asked him to reconsider the company’s position.
We criticised the leading national electrical retailer for failing to deal with third party insurance claims in a professional manner, and for deploying a non-committal strategy to effectively fob Edna’s claim off.
We underlined that legally they were equally liable for any negligence claims by their appointed contractors, and as the driver had failed to identify himself and leave any particulars of the incident, he was in breach of section 170 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act.
Within a few days a grateful and relieved Edna called to say a member of the firm’s customer service team had been in touch and the dispute had finally been settled.
In a creditable policy reversal a company spokesperson said: ‘We do agree the process took much longer than is acceptable and we have apologised to Mrs Bennett for this.
‘We are reviewing what happened here and will take steps to make the process quicker and more helpful for customers in the future.
‘I’d like to reassure Streetwise that we have taken the allegation very seriously and we investigated with the franchisee straightaway.
‘However, it wasn’t a straightforward claim. There was no apparent damage to the vehicle and, as we mentioned before, the drivers also denied they caused any damage.
‘Mrs Bennett was not at home at the time of the incident and her neighbour has said they witnessed a white van driving in the area at the time, but not the incident itself. However, we do recognise the delay Mrs Bennett has experienced.
‘In light of this, we have spoken with Mrs Bennett and offered to meet the claim of £600 on this occasion as a gesture of goodwill, without prejudice and as a full and final settlement, which she has accepted.’
Edna said, ‘ I was just so grateful to receive the settlement offer. I just can’t thank you enough for helping me.’