Repairs end up misfiring…

Repairs end up misfiring…

I was knocked off my bike and my insurance company organised an accident management company who dealt with the repairs for my bike.

My bike was only seven months old. The repairs were OK; there was a bit of paint overspray, which means the damaged panels were repaired and not replaced, but the bike looked nearly as good as new. I was perfectly happy with the repair.

However, four months later my bike developed an electronics problem and it now misfires quite badly. My dealer put in a warranty claim for the misfire that the manufacturer rejected as they said in an email that, ‘the machine has been subject to strip down and rebuilding by a non-franchised dealer’.

They referred to a section of my warranty that says, ‘all work on this machine must be carried out by an authorised dealer’, and repair work was carried out by a non-authorised company. The dealer says that the bike was put back together well enough by the repair people, but some engine parts were replaced that might have impacted on the main ECU and electronic system. I have now got a bill for close to £1,000 for a bike still under warranty, and any other warranty claims on the bike will be rejected. Do I have a leg to stand on?

Name Withheld

I am sorry, but not really. If the repairs had been carried out on a car by a VAT registered company then the warranty would still be valid, but this arrangement (which does not have force of law) does not apply to commercial vehicles or motorcycles.

Motorcycle manufacturers, in effect are saying ‘because somebody went into your bike, who was not trained to our levels, reused damaged parts, and probably replaced original parts with pattern parts in the repair the bike that we sold you is fundamentally changed, and the faults which have arisen are nothing to do with us, but they are to do with the repairs’.

It might be harsh, but you can understand why they say that. A lot of accident management companies use second hand or pattern parts. Their mechanics are usually decent mechanics, but they are not trained technicians on any particular marque. There is a moral to this story, insist on any crash repairs being carried out by a franchised dealer.

You also had another bit of bad news. When you tried to trade your bike in it is down on the HPI register as being crash damaged and repaired, and your trade in price has dropped by £800. This is not a claim that you brought when you dealt with the original accident, and this ‘diminution of value’ is something which solicitors should be alert to.

If solicitors had made quite such a pig’s ear of your claim, and recommended that you used non-franchised dealers you would have a remedy against solicitors, but in so far as accident management companies are concerned you really have little in the way of remedy.

However, all is not doom and gloom. Your manufacturer is one who is quite quick to reject warranty claims and bearing in mind £1,000 is about three weeks take home pay for you, so not a small sum of money, I would take the manufacturers to the small claims court. In front of a sympathetic judge you could win – but in front of most judges I do think you would lose. Your strongest point is that no problems arose for the first four months post repair, but equally the manufacturers would argue (no doubt supported by engineering evidence) that nothing went wrong with the ECU in first seven months, you could win, especially if you could afford an engineering report which says there is a manufacturing problem with the ECU, but that is still more money which you haven’t got.

However, it would cost the manufacturer more than £1,000 to fight the case. Your manufacturer does tend to make a ‘gesture of good will’ if things get escalated, others fight every warranty claim as a point of principle.

So, in answer to your question, legally, you do not have much of a leg to stand on with the manufacturers. However, I think that you should complain to your insurers, because you were fully comprehensively insured, the accident was the other driver’s fault, and you should have had the repairs carried out by a franchised dealer, whilst you might not have a remedy in law I would hope that the Financial Ombudsmen service would have some sympathy for your predicament. You have, after all, done nothing wrong.

There is one key point from this. If you have a new bike that is still under warranty do not let anyone who is not a franchised dealer touch it unless you want to lose your warranty. Even if your bike is not under warranty, if the repairs are carried out by anyone other than a franchised dealer, or a repair shop you know and trust, then you would have good grounds for being dubious about the quality of the repairs. You were entitled to have all of your panels replaced as opposed to patched and repaired.

Finally, if you pay a solicitor to deal with this you will be guaranteed to end up out of pocket. It is a small claim and will cost you more than a grand In legal fees, so your options are either suck it up, go to small claims court and/or the Financial Ombudsman’s service, small claims is quicker, but you have to go to court. Your legal case is not really strong, so this would be the second thing I would do if I were you – but dig in for a wait…

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes August 2016

Posted by Andrew Dalton. Posted on: September 22, 2016 at 12:00 am

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.