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Car crash confusion

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:33 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Years of care-free motoring came to an abrupt end for Lynn and Gary Williams, who live in the small village of Brithdir, near New Tredegar.

Back in 2005 the couple bought a used Ford Focus from Sirhowy Garage near Tredegar, paying £3500 for it in cash.

For years they were happy with their car which took Lynn to work nights as a carer in a retirement home and Gary to work during the day to his job for the local authority.

It also served as a taxi for their son who plays football for Newport County Football Club. But one night in May this year, everything changed. They uncovered an unexpected problem with their car - a problem that would not have come to light if it hadn't been for a bizarre set of circumstances.

Gary takes up the story: "I heard a bang so I rushed out of the front door up to where my boy's car was parked... to find that somebody had broken into my boy's car, pinched the stereo and had then decided to run their car into the back of my car."

The Ford Focus needed to be repaired so their insurance company Tesco arranged for a low-loader to take it to a garage. Lynn describes what happened next.

"We live on a hill, the recovery firm were parked behind our vehicle, and as they were pulling our car up on to the low loader my husband asked, "is it secure?" The reply: "Yes, yes, watch now," and with that our car broke clear of the recovery vehicle and careered down the hill.

"The front of our car smashed into a parked local authority vehicle and the local authority vehicle was pushed into my nextdoor neighbour's RAV4."

In a ten-hour period, the car was involved in two accidents with no one at the wheel! But for Lynn and Gary their problems had only just begun. Tesco, their insurer, decided the car was a write-off - it was simply uneconomical to repair it. A settlement figure of over £2,000 was agreed.

Later, by telephone, Tesco insurance told Lynn that just over £1,000 would be paid to her and the remaining money would go to a finance company to repay the outstanding finance on the car. "Alarm bells started ringing," said Lynn. "'Finance company?' I said, 'I can assure you we've got no finance on the car.'"

But Tesco insurance said otherwise. It had done a check on the car to make sure there was no outstanding finance and that check had revealed a loan registered against the car. The loan had been taken out with a Belfast company, Creation Consumer Finance.

Fearful that they'd been the victims of fraud, the couple contacted Creation Consumer Finance to get to the bottom of the mysterious loan on their car.

But because the loan was not in Lynn or Gary's name, the company refused to give them any details about it, saying they were prevented from doing so by the Data Protection Act.

Lynn could prove that she'd bought the car outright as she'd kept all of her paperwork. "So I'm thinking somebody used our car to obtain finance. It's only because our car was a total loss that this has come to light."

In desperation the couple went back to the garage where they bought the car to ask for help. Before selling the car to Lynn and Gary, the garage owner had checked that there was no outstanding finance on it. But this time, he couldn't get past the issue of the Data Protection Act either.

Lynn and Gary were stuck - they were more than £1,000 out of pocket and had to find the money to buy another vehicle. They just want to find out what has happened and put it right.

"I would like to recover the remaining settlement in relation to our car," Lynn told X-Ray. "I just want all details of anything to do with us or our car removed from this finance agreement belonging to Creation Finance."

And when X-Ray got on the case, things started to move. Creation Consumer Finance investigated the matter and discovered there had never been any finance on Gary and Lynn's Ford Focus.

The problem occurred when another customer took out a loan with Creation Consumer Finance to buy a car with a similar registration number.

The motor dealer had accidentally entered Lynn and Gary's registration number into the compulsory HPI system (which tracks finance on cars). That mistake has now been rectified and Creation Consumer Finance has promised to return the money to Tesco.

Tesco insurance has apologised to the couple. They say that after Lynn contacted them to report the problem, they should have stopped the cheque to Creation Consumer Finance.

Tesco has now promised to pay Lynn and Gary the £1048 they've been waiting for, as well as refunding the £100 excess on their policy to make up for the inconvenience that's been caused. Good news!

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