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‘Completely destroyed’: how a Halfords service left a car owner £2,000 out of pocket | Motoring

A Birmingham man who took his beloved Alfa Romeo to Halfords Autocentre for a routine service has described his despair after it was written off on a test drive by a staff member, leaving him more than £2,000 out of pocket.

Ian Tubbs contacted Guardian Money when, rather than helping a customer whose car was “completely destroyed” in its care, Halfords refused to accept liability for the collision and the financial losses he suffered as a result.

Halfords initially stood by its employee’s claim that the car was being professionally driven at 25 mph, and that the damage to the vehicle was caused by a third-party vehicle hitting the customer’s car. Pictures of the car show the front driver’s side is completely smashed in and two wheels are missing.

Damaged railings at the scene of the incident involving Ian Tubbs’s Alfa Romeo. Photograph: Supplied by Ian Tubbs

“The whole thing has been a nightmare,” Tubbs says of the saga that began just before Christmas when he asked the Shirley Halfords Autocentre to service his cherished Alfa, which had cost him £23,000.

But rather than getting a call that evening to say his car was ready, the centre manager said his car had been in an accident, making it, he says, sound “as though it was no big deal”. However, on his way home from work, he came across the remains of his car, which he says had “clearly” been involved in a very serious crash.

He has since learned that the car clipped two other vehicles, and had travelled a further 50 yards after colliding with a tow truck. Only some railings that were damaged by the impact stopped the car from careering on to a busy roundabout.

The police on the scene told him that the driver, who was with another member of staff at the time of the crash, claimed he had been driving at 25 mph.

Tubbs says Halfords was unhelpful from the start. The collision happened on a Friday and it said the earliest it could supply a replacement car was Monday afternoon, forcing him to hire one to get to work.

An initial police report seen by the Guardian and shared with Halfords says witnesses describe seeing the car swerving in and out of traffic before hitting the kerb and then the railings. The driver and passenger then started arguing with the driver of a low loader who has blamed the Halfords driver for the collision.

Tubbs’s plight has only worsened. Halfords’ insurer, Aviva, offered him £19,000 for his car, upped to £19,500 after he complained – but still £300 short of what he believed to be its full value. His hire car had a puncture, resulting in a £600 excess payment.

Ian Tubbs’s insurance rose after the incident with his Alfa Romeo. Photograph: Supplied by Ian Tubbs

The final indignity came when Tubbs questioned why his car insurance had risen £300 for the car he bought to replace the Alfa.

It turned out that his insurer had paid out two claims made by the owners of cars his Alfa Romeo had collided with before the ultimate crash. These claims were wrongly on his record and will push up his premium for several years.

“To this day I have had no meaningful apology, and no offer to compensate me for what happened,” Tubbs says. “I have had to overpay for my insurance, pay to take taxis to get around. I’ve lost £600 to the car hire firm, and spent time looking for another car. I have been really shocked by way Halfords has behaved,” he says.

However, after Guardian Money’s intervention Halfords has entered talks and is seeking to settle the matter amicably.

A Halfords spokesperson says: “We recognise the distress caused by the recent incident of a collision during a routine road test by our technicians. We followed the necessary procedures by notifying our insurance company. We’ve apologised to Mr Tubbs for the inconvenience caused and we’re working to resolve this matter directly with him.”

Halfords’ insurer, Aviva, stood by the value of the payout and said it would cover any expenses he incurred as a result of the collision. It is too soon to have established liability as it is awaiting the final police report, it said. It is also arranging that the claims paid out by his insurer be moved across to its books, meaning it will no longer be on his record.

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