Insurer who left me stranded valued my time at just £5-a-day

Michelle McGagh
Tow truck driver loading car
Tow truck driver loading car

After a six-hour wait by the side of the road after a breakdown in France and another day lost waiting for the vehicle to be delivered, being told my time was worth £5 a day wasn't the sort of compensation I had in mind.

On the penultimate day of our holiday to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I had the misfortune to breakdown in the middle of rural France on a busy road known locally as 'the motorway'. The clutch cable had gone in our camper van.

The phonecalls to AXA Assistance back in the UK started well enough; someone would be out to collect us and drop us at the nearest garage soon. We waited, we called, we waited some more and in the end we waited over six hours – midday to just after 6pm.

We heard a stream of excuses from the UK call centre; we couldn't be found, the recovery vehicle had broken down. In the end we were assured someone was on their way and taking us to AXA's depot 45 minutes away because no local garages were open after 6pm.

Where are we going?

The truck turned up and with relief the van was cranked onto the back of it and we settled in for our 45-minute journey. However, we didn't get very far: just over a mile down the road in fact to a local garage where the van was locked up for the night.

After a rather tense call to the UK call centre to find out what was going on we were told that we would be picked up by cab in the morning and taken 45 minutes away to pick up a hire car.

There was no explanation as to why we were taken a mile down the road – we could have pushed the car there in far less than the six hours it took for us to be picked up.

Fast forward to the next day and we were taken to pick up a hire car and duly set off for Calais where we dropped the car and boarded the ferry as foot passengers. AXA arranged for a taxi to take us from Dover back to London, which was appreciated.

Lack of communication

While annoyed that we came home without our camper van – if we had been picked up early the vehicle could easily had been fixed – at least we were home and I set about trying to get the car back.

I was told it would be delivered on 26 August and I cancelled meetings to stay in all day waiting, and waiting and, you guessed it, waiting some more. At half past four I called AXA and asked where my vehicle was; a quick call to the company tasked with delivering it revealed it wasn't coming.

I complained via email and was contacted by the complaints department who told me I was due compensation of £30 for the six-hour wait and when I pressed about the day lost waiting for the delivery I was told I would receive another £5.

When I queried these amounts, I was told that a review of them may result in receiving less than £35 as the team usually only pays £5 a day in compensation. While some insurance companies might value our time at such little cost, I believe that it is worth more.

When I told the complaints department I planned to write about the service, they called back with an increased offer of £55. It shouldn't take the threat of bad press to squeeze a measly £20 out of the company.

I have now spoken to Kelly Ward, AXA Assistance UK sales and marketing manager, who admits the initial breakdown and subsequent complaint were handled badly but denied the company has a £5 a day compensation policy.

''If a customer does not experience the high level of service and support they expect, we have processes and procedures in place to full investigate the circumstances behind what has happened,' he said. 'Providing compensation to a customer who has been inconvenienced by a drop in our service standards is based on a number of factors specific to each situation.'

Ward has now reviewed the compensation and paid out another £100 – so £155 total, which is a fair amount but should have been paid in the first place.

For those who do not have the benefit of journalistic muscle, the moral of the story is to keep pushing and don't be bullied into believing that asking for a review of compensation will mean you are offered a reduced amount.

If you are still unsatisfied with the way a company has treated you the contact the Financial Ombudsman Service who will be able to give an impartial assessment of your complaint.

* Please note all compensation has been donated to charity

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