Knowing what to do when your vehicle is damaged at a garage can be problematic at the best of times. This is something I had to deal with where I spotted damage to my scooter one week after a service.
I put the scooter in for a full service and replacement parts from when it was blown over at work a few weeks earlier, only to find a hairline crack in the centre panel a week later. This is only weeks after hitting loose tarmac from a badly repaired pothole that smashed two panels which I successfully reclaimed from Edinburgh City Council.
I had been off work all week on holiday, the scooter remained unused and was secured behind a locked garden gate. I came to use it on the Bank Holiday Monday, spotted the damage and took it to the garage one week after it had been serviced to discuss it. I met one of the Directors and co-owners who took photos and was quite reticent in trying to resolve it. Nevertheless, he said he would speak to the workshop the following day and see what the mechanic said.
I returned to the garage the following day, only to be told that the mechanic denied all knowledge of it and this stance was supported by the Director and co-owner. He said that there was no way of knowing if it had been damaged at the garage, he wanted to give me the benefit of the doubt, said he would check the CCTV and get back to me within the next few days. I was told to return if I hadn’t heard from him. I had no faith that he would do as he would say and besides, it’s hardly an independent audit is it?
The damage was on the centre panel adjoining the panels that would be removed to get to the spark plug. There was no way that this could have been damaged anywhere else other than at the garage where it was serviced. This was the only garage it had been entrusted with.
PRE-ACTION PROTOCOL LETTER
I came home that night, wrote the following letter and sent it by e-mail;
(Scooter make and model – registration number)
On (date) I took the above vehicle (scooter make and model) in to your garage for a full service.
While in your possession, it was damaged as follows:
- Centre glossy panel has incurred a hairline crack
You were under a legal duty to take care of my scooter while it was in your possession.
Furthermore, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires you to use reasonable skill and care while carrying out work.
The fact that the scooter was damaged while in your possession is evidence that you failed to take reasonable care of it.
I look forward to receiving, within the next 14 days, your written proposal to affect a satisfactory repair to the vehicle, at no cost to me.
If you fail to respond in that time, I shall exercise my common law right to employ another garage to carry out the work and look to you to bear the cost.
Any attempt to resist paying such a bill would leave me with no alternative but to issue a claim against you in the Sheriff Court for recovery of the money without further reference to you.
However, in accordance with the Civil Procedure Pre-Action Protocol, I would be willing to refer my case to the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair, as I understand they have a free conciliation and low cost independent arbitration scheme.
This would be a way of successfully resolving my dispute without resorting to legal action.
Please confirm whether you are a member of the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair.
I fired it off by e-mail and asked for an acknowledgement that never arrived.
I asked the garage where I bought it from to price this part up and the cost of fitting it. I also did my due diligence on Companies House to see who the Directors and Shareholders were at the garage I was at loggerheads with.
The price of the replacement panel was £53 and £117 to fit it. It would cost the garage nothing if they simply did the right thing for the sake of goodwill, reputational risk and the potential loss of a longstanding customer who has spoken well of them on social media in the past.
I was prepared to take this to the Small Claims Court and it would have made the newspapers. Would you seriously bother arguing with a longstanding customer over a £50 panel?
I came home that afternoon, printed off the letter I had e-mailed, signed it and hand delivered it to the garage knowing who the Directors and Shareholders are that work in the shop. I asked one of the staff his name and if he was one of the Directors and Shareholders and he confirmed that he was. I replied by saying that I thought so as I had checked on Companies House. I also said that I had e-mailed his Partner last night, asked for a reply and I hadn’t heard anything. Before I could take it much further, he said that they had a brief discussion this morning and agreed to order the part and get it replaced.
He apologised twice for the lack of a courtesy reply from his Partner and therein lies a lesson in itself. If you have agreed to settle a complaint, the best thing you can do is to let the customer know as soon as possible and not rattle their cage even more by avoiding them!
In an era where everything is much the same, the one thing that sets a firm apart from their competitors is great customer service.
He did say that, “We cannot be certain that it happened here…” and it was clear this was a decision that rankled them a bit. I counted it by saying that the law of probabilities says that it is likely in the eyes of a reasonable man, and this is not wear and tear.
My work was done and I left it at that. That wasn’t the end of the saga though.
Have you had problems with a garage where your vehicle has been damaged? If so, how did it work out for you?