Sally sorts it out: Direct Line left us stranded in France with a £1,650 bill after the holiday. what can i do?
Last August, we had a collision with our Volvo in the south of France. We had gone by car on a family vacation, and the accident happened the day before we were due home. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the car was undriveable, and two other cars were diverted in the accident.
Even though we took out car insurance with Foreign Use Extension and Green Flag Breakdown coverage, both through Directline, we had a difficult time convincing the insurance company to help us get us and our car home and handle the claim. Can you help?
Sally Hamilton answers: A small bump has turned into a massive headache, triggering a military-style exercise to get you and your family – plus your West Highland Terrier Scout – back to the UK.
The first problem arose when Green Flag said you were not covered and needed to organize the car recovery yourself.
You can’t believe it. It was the August bank holiday, and there was a shortage of hire cars, so you couldn’t find an alternative with which to drive home. Since you had your dog with you, you could not board the plane. So you left the car behind with French pounds.
A small hiccup on a car trip to the south of France turned into a massive headache
Your partner then crossed the Channel three times in 24 hours (once on the Eurostar, twice on the Eurotunnel) to pick up your mum’s car from Hertfordshire and bring the rest of you home from Lille.
To get to Lille to meet your partner, the rest of you embarked on a nine-step journey, which included a £70 taxi ride, two train journeys and the one hire car I managed to arrange (from Dijon to Lille).
By the time you called me, I had spent hours on the phone over several days going back and forth between live line sections (often getting disconnected and having to start from scratch). Three of those hours were spent in a car park in France in temperatures reaching 41 degrees Celsius.
Five days later, when you finally returned home, someone in Direct Line’s car insurance department told you that its foreign claims unit was now handling your case – but nothing had been done yet to value the car or repatriate it.
It is not yet clear who might foot the £1,000-plus bill – if anyone – to repatriate the family.
You said you felt particularly aggrieved because you had purchased a foreign use extension for your auto insurance policy at least once a year (and sometimes three times a year) for the past decade — and this was the first time you needed to use it.
This is not the first time I have received complaints from vacationers after a car accident abroad. There is confusion about where responsibility lies when things go wrong.
If the car is immobilized due to an accident, the breakdown provider, I’m afraid, will wash its hands of the customer – the accident is not a failure, even if it looks like it is.
However, you think you have all the bases covered, with a foreign extension for your car insurance. But a gap appeared in your insurance coverage when you were told that the policy would only pay for the return of the car and not its passengers. Had the same accident occurred in the UK, these costs could have been covered.
This was not made clear in the document I received upon purchase – and sent to me – which sets out the seven areas of coverage. All seven are progressing fully in the UK, but not all of them are progressing in Europe, it seems.
The exit requirement for Direct Line is to use the wording at the end of this list: “See your insurance booklet for full details of what is and is not covered in each section.”
I felt this was unfair, and neither were you, so I asked Direct Line to investigate. After several weeks of cajoling on our part and examining your complaint, Direct Line eventually agreed that the information in the document was “confusing” and that you had received poor service.
It has agreed to pay repatriation costs for you and your family of £1,250 plus £400 for the residential parking permits you need for your temporary hire car while your Volvo is being repaired. She also paid £750 as an apology.
This was in addition to the estimated £10,000 cost of the claim, which was not in dispute, and included returning the Volvo and repairing it, dealing with the other two vehicles involved, as well as local car hire costs.
You were both pleased with the result and now you have your car back in “stylish and extended style”. You said you learned serious lessons about insurance through this experience and will examine coverage more closely in the future.
In fact, you told me that you have already taken out a more expensive version of foreign employment coverage (still with Direct Line) for future trips to France.
Direct Line Customer Service says it will provide feedback to its cover business to help it improve the confusing cover document. At the same time, I discovered a pet taxi service (petmovesabroad.co.uk) that I could use to transport the Scouts across the Channel. next time!
I’ve just bought my fifth Amazon Kindle e-reader – for £179 – after the previous one stopped working. I have asked Amazon to use a new email address for my account as my previous address was from my NHS job which is now unreachable as I have recently retired after 44 years.
When my mother died in 2019, I lost interest in many things, including reading. Now I feel like reading again, but I can’t access my book library on my Kindle because I no longer have the email address it came with.
Amazon employees say there’s nothing they can do. Do they expect me to spend a fortune buying those books again?
Sally Hamilton answers: At my request, Amazon has made a reasonable attempt to resolve the issue. A few days later, you confirmed that your old email prevented him from recovering your old account. But she has now set up a new account using your personal email address, which she says you can now access 240 missing books, worth an estimated £1,000. She added a £10 gift card as an apology.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “We regret that the customer experience in this case did not meet the high standards we expect.” We apologized and moved their previous Kindle books to their new account.
There’s still another chapter to come, as you can currently only access books via the Kindle app on your phone, which isn’t ideal. Tech bodies are still working on getting you access via the new Kindle.
May I suggest, dear readers, that it is best to avoid using your work email address when signing up for any service, as who knows when the job might end and access to important services is left in limbo.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to influence our editorial independence.
(Signs for translation) Daily Mail