Our car broke down on July 26 as my wife and I were travelling home with friends. When negotiating the busy Canford Bottom roundabout on the A31 there was a bang and I was unable to get the car to move.
We pushed it to the outer lane and I called RAC just before 8pm. For hours I was told it was exceptionally busy and was promised updates in 30 minutes. At 12.23am I was told our case would be escalated.
Police attended in the evening and returned at 3am — they could not believe we were still there.
Stranded: AA took more than 8 hours to get to an elderly couple after the car broke down on the busy A31 at night
They helped us move the car to a safer location and drove us to a friends’ house. Our friends then drove us home to Bournemouth.
As we walked through the door at 3.40am a breakdown driver called, so we went out again to take the car key to him.
He told us he had been available for the past five hours but had only recently received a request from RAC.
A. G., Bournemouth, Dorset.
Tony Hazell replies: What a nightmare! It must have been particularly galling to learn that your ordeal could have been curtailed by five hours and you might have been tucked up in bed by midnight.
This was during the pingdemic when staff absence at RAC would have been high. But you had an awful experience, and its offer of reparation was pathetic — a 50 per cent renewal discount. You were a long-standing customer who had been badly let down.
I pointed this out to RAC and you then received an appropriately grovelling apology: ‘Ultimately, we should have attended much sooner than we did and we should have called when we said we would. There is no excuse for how long you waited.’
You were offered 15 months of free breakdown cover, which you happily accepted. RAC told me: ‘The impact of unprecedented UK staycation travel, together with many staff having to self-isolate, put extreme pressure on all breakdown service providers, meaning a small number of customers had to wait longer than usual.
‘We’re pleased Mr G has accepted our gesture of goodwill.’
Broken gas meter hiked bill by £800
On May 29 our gas boiler stopped working. A central heating engineer traced the problem to the outside gas meter which had somehow turned off the gas supply.
Our supplier, Utility Warehouse, said the meter was irreparable and arranged to change it the following week. We switched off the boiler so no gas was entering our home.
My husband took 15 meter readings over the next three days, and the reading increased from 15,610 to 16,094.
We told the engineer who changed the meter, but he did not pass this on to the firm. Our bills were increasing rapidly so we told Utility Warehouse about the fault.
The provider said our next bill would be adjusted, but we were charged £800 for July.
This meant our debt had risen from £300.19 to £1,328.91 between April and July. Utility Warehouse has closed our complaint and told us to wait until January to see what our usage is on the new meter.
We have been with the firm for three years, so why can’t it look at our previous readings?
B. C., Watton, Norfolk.
Tony Hazell replies: That increase in gas usage over the summer should ring alarm bells. I am surprised there was no search for a leak.
You are both in your 80s and had become scared to use gas because of the rising bills. This is no way to treat potentially vulnerable customers.
Your payments from February to August 2020 came to £1,109.08, but over the same period this year you were charged £1,592.78.
Your old meter was faulty, but how long had it been malfunctioning for? After I made contact, Utility Warehouse re-estimated your bills with previous usage details, resulting in a credit of £1,068.67.
This leaves your account clear of any debt. It has also apologised and made a £75 goodwill payment. You are very happy with this outcome.
What happened to my AA employee savings?
I joined a three-year sharesave scheme as an employee with the AA. I left the company in 2003, went to live in France and forgot about this.
I have now returned to the UK. I wrote to the AA, Centrica (which owned the AA) and the share service Equiniti. I have been told there is no trace of the account.
P. W., Evesham, Worcs.
Tony Hazell replies: Equiniti has searched microfiche records.
It says you left the AA employee share scheme and cashed a cheque for £900. You can’t recall doing this, but it is easy to forget something from nearly two decades ago.
You have approached your bank, but it has told you it can only go back through your transfers from up to three years ago.
Isn’t it good to know that, in the age of computerisation, banks are claiming their records are hopeless?
I say ‘claiming’ because I don’t believe what your bank has told you, though whether it could go as far back as 2003 is another matter.