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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Miles Brignall

An RAC call-out ended up with me losing my beloved Rolls-Royce

A Rolls-Royce Silver Spur – one of only a few built with a turbo.
A Rolls-Royce Silver Spur – one of only a few built with a turbo. Photograph: Handout

A couple of weeks ago you featured a story about the RAC losing a reader’s car that it was supposed to be recovering to his home. I can – unfortunately – top that. In February, I was driving my immaculate Rolls-Royce Silver Spur – one of only a few built with a turbo – when it suddenly refused to engage reverse gear.

The RAC patrolman who attended couldn’t repair it and therefore offered to have it recovered back to the specialist Rolls and Bentley repairer that looks after it.

Just as with your previous case, it then spent the next six days missing, with no one at the RAC willing, or able, to tell me my vehicle’s whereabouts.

When it eventually turned up at the specialist repairer, it had been significantly damaged.

The RAC’s response was that it would take 20 days to investigate. That passed. It then said it wanted another 20. That’s the last I heard.

I approached my insurer, Direct Line, and asked it to send an engineer to investigate, only to be told “we do not send out engineers on account of Covid”.

Without even examining the car, it then declared it a write-off, and sent me a cheque for £19,000 without any explanation.

Considering this a derisory offer, I sent it back. Direct Line then demanded the courtesy car, that it had only just supplied, be returned the next day at midnight, resulting in a nightmare journey back to Manchester in the bank holiday weekend traffic.

To say I feel badly treated by both organisations is a huge understatement. I am 85 and was left without a car for weeks.

The final indignity is that Direct Line has cancelled my insurance.

LM, Manchester

The whole thing sounds appalling, and I don’t know which is worse - the RAC’s cavalier attitude, or Direct Line’s dismissive claim handling? It’s probably the latter.

To simply send you a cheque in a brown envelope without an explanation as to how it arrived at its valuation is bizarre, as is its refusal to send an engineer to examine the car. It also seems a very low offer on a very rare car with a much-sought-after engine.

Direct Line, which has been hit by a surge in claims in recent months and is losing money, has apologised that its interactions with you have fallen below “its usual high standards”.

However, it has refused to budge on its valuation, which it claims was determined by approaching multiple independent Rolls-Royce dealers. It has offered to return the car to you from its storage facility.

For its part, the RAC claimed it was still waiting for you to provide evidence of the damage done by its contractor, and that once you have done so, it “will deal with it promptly”.

In your shoes, I would track down the damage evidence and use it to get the RAC to agree a settlement.

I would then commission my own valuation of the car and use it to negotiate with Direct Line – ultimately using the Financial Ombudsman Service if needs be.

For the replacement car, I would use a specialist classic car insurer with an agreed valuation, and I’d definitely be finding another car recovery firm to sign up with.

Wizz Air – a warning

Anyone planning to jet off on Wizz Air in the coming weeks needs to be aware that the airline has controversially reduced the amount of time passengers have to check in online.

Until now, those passengers not paying to choose a seat could check in up to 48 hours before their departure. Now it is 24 hours – presumably to get more passengers to pay for a seat, at which point you get a 30-day check-in.

It is controversial because the airline has suffered a spate of technical glitches that has meant airline passengers could not check in online, with some forced to pay the equivalent of more than £40 for a boarding pass at the airport.

It has happened so often that some readers have labelled it a scandal.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to our terms and conditions

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