Matthew Brookes thought he’d be in safe hands when he called the AA from the motorway hard shoulder after his Audi A6’s oil pressure warning light came on. It was 10:30pm and he, his partner and eight-month-old daughter were 90 miles from home, but the AA reassured him his was
a priority case; help would arrive within an hour.
They waited two hours before a recovery truck appeared, only it wasn’t an AA truck, but a third party: Diamond Recovery. Matthew was just relieved that help had come, until the recovery driver, Matthew claims, completely ignored his pleas not to start the engine and drove the car onto the truck using a makeshift wooden ramp instead of the winch.
The driver then announced there wasn’t enough mileage on his tachometer to deliver the family home, so took them to a local service station hotel. There, Matthew says, he drove the car off the truck, but forgot the ramp so the car came to a crushing halt towbar-first on the ground.
‘We watched in disbelief as he was slowly destroying our lovely car,’ said Matthew. ‘He then started it again, but couldn’t get traction on the ramp, so revved it until the wheels were spinning.’
The next morning, an AA patrolman arrived, winched the car onto his truck and took the family home. ‘He said the car should never have been started,’ said Matthew. ‘He even pushed it into my driveway.’
At the Audi garage, there was catastrophic news: the car had sustained damage worth £1000 when it hit the ground, and it needed a new engine and turbocharger at a cost of £7500.
Despite Matthew having photos of the Audi on the truck with its lights on, the AA refused to accept liability. ‘Our agent disputes starting your vehicle to load and unload it from the truck,’ it said.
Matthew contacted Helpdesk and we asked the AA what was going on. A day later, the AA apologised for the recovery delay and offered to pay for the towbar repair, the hotel stay and the homeward recovery, which Matthew’s policy didn’t cover.
However, it insisted: ‘The engine damage would have been present prior to our attendance.’
A spokeswoman said she appreciated Matthew would be disappointed and offered to refer the case to independent arbitration. He has accepted.
What if this happens to you?
- If you call for help out of garage hours, stress that you’ll need to be recovered to your intended destination if a roadside repair can’t be made.
- Insist the patrolman explains and confirms in writing all work he does to the car on the case form. If in doubt, use your mobile phone to take photos or, even better, videos of the recovery process.
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