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Case studies - Two-year fight over car costs

Which? member Ken West faced a two-year battle to recover the cost of getting his car repaired – despite having bought an extended warranty on the vehicle. 

In March 2011, the anti-lock braking system (ABS) warning light appeared on Ken’s VW Touareg. He took the car to his local VW dealer to diagnose and repair the fault. He then made a claim on his extended warranty policy from Warranty Direct, having first checked that the ABS unit was insured under the terms. 

But Warranty Direct rejected the claim following an engineer’s report on the car, which the company commissioned. 

The report found that the fault was caused by water getting into the car, which wasn’t covered by the policy. 

Ken then contacted Which? Legal Service for advice. 

Which? Legal advice

We advised Ken to instruct an independent expert to investigate the ABS failure. This report found that the fault wasn’t caused by water. On the strength of this, Ken requested that Warranty Direct honour the terms of its policy, but it refused.

After a final response from the company, and on our legal advice, Ken referred the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

The FOS adjudicator agreed with Ken’s complaint. Warranty Direct refused to accept the adjudicator’s decision and requested that the matter be reviewed by the Ombudsman. 

Outcome

The Ombudsman upheld the adjudicator’s decision and awarded Ken the costs of the repair, along with the costs of the further expert report and associated expenses. With interest, Ken got a total of £3,095.

Legal points

Insurance providers may try to refuse a claim by relying on a particular clause in the contract. If you disagree, you can refer the matter to the FOS. 

Usually, this must be done within six months of receiving a final response from the company. The FOS adjudicators will make a decision, which can then be reviewed by the Ombudsman. 

The FOS decision is binding on the insurance provider. In this case, Ken had to rely on the evidence of an expert that he found, but it’s normally better to agree an expert with the party with whom you are in dispute.