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Credit Hire Organization - No Hire Taken. Disputed Storage Fees/Recovery Costs.


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Lien - legal

 

Hi,

I am having some problems with a credit hire organization (CHO) that recovered my vehicle following a clear non-fault accident at the beginning of April and I’d like a legal perspective on options to force release of my vehicle/settlement. I was put in touch with this CHO via the AA - they referred me to the 3rd party via their Accident Assist service following a call to their general helpline. Consequently, I’ve written a strongly worded letter of complaint to the AA listing all of the failings I’ve experienced and this is due to be submitted today. I’m hoping this will put some pressure on the CHO to release my vehicle and/or come to a settlement. However, in the event that this fails or takes too long, I would like to explore my options for applying legal pressure to the CHO for release.

I believe that the CHO is holding my vehicle under a lien although they have not confirmed this. They have said they will not release the vehicle until their invoice for a little over £1k is paid. The invoice is for recovery and storage costs of the vehicle since it was recovered after the accident.

My dispute over the charges is as follows:

1. The vehicle was recovered 200 miles away from the incident without notice or consent.

2. The vehicle has been in storage with them since then but no contract has been signed/issued, no terms and conditions have been supplied, no credit hire was taken and no onboarding documentation was completed. I've spoken to them on phone calls and a number of WhatsApp messages/emails have been exchanged.

3. On the day after the accident, I told them that I didn't think my case was a good fit for them as I had no need for a hire vehicle - I was due to travel out of the country for an extended business trip about a week later. Additionally, I told them I would be away for 4-6 weeks and would be bringing back a second vehicle on my return. They insisted this wasn't an issue but continued to apply pressure for me to take up a hire vehicle until I travelled.

4. On the day after the accident, I also asked them if they were able to provide a BMW approved repair as the vehicle still has a manufacturer warranty in place. They told me they use BMW parts but could not confirm that it would be a BMW approved repairer. The answer was vague but I assumed this was not something they could offer. Further conversations around this have not offered a way forward with them using a BMW approved repairer.

5. A couple of days later, I told them clearly that I wanted the vehicle to be repaired by my local BMW dealership.

6, They ignored this and presented me with an "Engineers Estimate" around 10 days after the accident. I was told that this was drawn up by the call handler, who claimed to be an engineer, and comprised a list of parts requiring replacement along with an estimate of labour. It did not contain any photos of the damage, notes or substantiating detail to make an informed decision on the condition of the vehicle. I asked for further details which have never been supplied. I also questioned whether this was an Engineer's Report as they had been referring to it as such in the phone calls. It was not until much later that I noticed it was named otherwise in their written communication.

7. Their assessment was that the vehicle is a total loss, even thought I didn't believe they had the authority or qualifications to make that determination. They proposed to engage with the insurer on my behalf and take the case forward on the basis of a negotiation towards a settlement.

8. I was unhappy with this assessment, their proposed course of action and was very sure by this point that I did not trust this company to look after my interests. However, I was unsure how to extricate myself and my vehicle from this situation. I tried engaging with BMW and my insurer directly but neither were able to offer what I wanted - pay the CHO to release the vehicle and transfer it to a BMW approved facility. Even though I haven't taken a hire or signed a contract with this organization, their involvement has made it difficult to transfer the case to another third party.

9. Meanwhile, the CHO has continued to frustrate the process and argue against my wishes - largely centered around their insistence that I accept the vehicle is a "total loss".

10. Things dragged, until I asked for an estimate of costs around the end of May and I was presented with an invoice for a little over 1k. This was the first time that I was made aware of storage costs in any form, either as a daily rate or that they would be incurred/charged.

11. I've refused to pay this and I've since been advised that these charges may not be fully recoverable from a third party insurer given the lack of progress with the case. I was referred to the "ABI General Terms Of Agreement (GTA) Between Subscribing Insurers (Insurers) And Credit Hire Organisations (CHOs)" as a baseline for claims between CHOs and Insurers. To be clear, the CHO in question is not a subscriber to the GTA but the advisor proposed the GTA might still be the measuring stick a third party insurer would use when assessing the validity of the charges. On review of the GTA, I have identified 5 clear breaches of the terms and these are the focus of my complaint to the AA.

12. I informed them that further storage charges would be their own liability since they are choosing to retain the vehicle rather than allow it to be released. They have said that they do not accept liability for further charges whilst the matter is in dispute.

13. I've asked the CHO to clarify the basis on which they are holding my vehicle and asked if they are trying to exercise a common law lien.

On the the basis of the above, I believe that there is probably enough to show that a verbal agreement was in place to recover the vehicle and that the recovery element of their invoice is substantiated, at least in part. That said, the distance is questionable and I am concerned that recovery back to my local area is another cost that will need to be bourne by somebody.

I strongly dispute the storage charges on the basis there was no mention of this verbally or in writing (no T's & C's have ever been supplied) until the invoice was presented. Consequently, I don't see how this is substantiated in our verbal agreement to recover the car. Additionally, I believe that the delay to this case has largely been down to their insistence to remain involved even though they are not offering the services or resolutions that I want. To then charge for an impasse that they have created seems both unreasonable and unprofessional.

Would very much appreciate advice on the next steps from a legal perspective - formal demand for release of the vehicle with an LBA to follow?

Thanks,

James

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I'm sorry but this story is so incredibly long and involved but it is really difficult to follow it through. Don't forget we are volunteers and we are giving our time simply to help out.

Please could you give us a story in a bullet pointed chronology. Skip all the narrative. We really just want to know what the issues are and how it came about.

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Sorry about that. I tried to keep it brief but it is a bit of a saga... Will summarise below.

1. Following a non-fault accident, Credit Hire Organization (CHI) recovered my vehicle 200 miles from my locale without notice/instruction .

2. I told them straight away I didn't need a credit hire vehicle and made it clear I wanted a manufacturer approved repair.

3. They have tried to remain involved - pressured car hire when not required, pressured me to accept their assessment the vehicle was a total loss and this has lead to a breakdown in trust/the relationship.

4. I have not been given or signed a contract or terms and conditions. Additionally, I have refused to complete their onboarding questionnaire as they did not inspire confidence to engage them formally.

4. After 2 months of this dragging, they have presented me with an invoice for around £1k, which comprises recovery (25%) and storage (75%).

5. They are refusing to release the vehicle until they have been paid.

My next step is to make a complaint to the AA, who referred me to the CHO via their Accident Assist Service, but I would like to get advice on next steps for progressing this legally in parallel. At present, neither my insurer, nor BMW, not the third party's insurer are offering support to get things moving in the right direction. Desired outcome is to get the car to BMW asap.

Thanks,

J
 

 

BTW, original post is in chronological order.

Edited by orge
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