Fast Bikes - - MASTERCLASS -

Q I have re­cently taken my bike in for a tyre change, chain and sprock­ets re­place­ment and a ser­vice with a non-fran­chised dealer. You would prob­a­bly say that he was a bit of a back­street dealer. I also wanted the rub­bers on my hand grips changed. I picked up the bike, and when rid­ing home the grip for the throt­tle lit­er­ally twisted off the throt­tle as I ac­cel­er­ated. The throt­tle rub­ber did not quite come off in my hand, but it slid off by a good cou­ple of inches, and the throt­tle snapped off shut. I pulled the rub­ber off, and rode back to the shop just us­ing the plas­tic throt­tle body. The pro­pri­etor was hor­ri­fied.

He told me he would re­place the grips, re­fund me for the orig­i­nal grips and said at my next ser­vice I could buy parts at trade prices and wouldn’t be charged labour. He dragged out the ap­pren­tice, who had re­placed the grips, pro­ceeded to ver­bally rip his head off and spit down the hole. It turned out that the ap­pren­tice had left some sort of soapy lube on the grips and had not prop­erly mea­sured the han­dle­bar bores and this was the rea­son why the grips slid off. That in­ci­dent gave me a hell of a fright. I do not think that a free ser­vice is good enough. I could have been killed. Do I have any le­gal re­dress?

A Hon­estly, no. The ap­pren­tice me­chanic has cocked up. If you had ac­tu­ally been hurt, of course you would have a cast iron claim but the law does not com­pen­sate for near misses, ex­cept in the very pe­cu­liar cir­cum­stances of a very se­ri­ous psy­chi­atric re­ac­tion, which you have not had. In fact, all the shop needs to do in law is remedy its er­ror by prop­erly re­fit­ting the cor­rect hand grips. The free ser­vice and dis­counted parts are a peace of­fer­ing and an apol­ogy. If you re­ally want to make your life and the shop’s life un­nec­es­sar­ily hard you could have the grips fit­ted at an­other work­shop, and send the bill for the re­place­ment grips to the orig­i­nal dealer, but you would be on a very sticky le­gal wicket, be­cause the re­tailer is en­ti­tled to have a rea­son­able chance of mak­ing good his er­ror.

You could say that be­cause they had made a safety crit­i­cal er­ror you do not want them to touch your bike again, but I sus­pect that you will get lit­tle in the way of sym­pa­thy off any dis­trict judge hear­ing this case at a small claims tri­bunal. I sup­pose the dealer might pay to get rid of you, but he re­ally does not have to. If you were pre­pared to go to the small claims court I would ex­pect you would lose and you would have to pay the wit­ness ex­penses of the ap­pren­tice and the pro­pri­etor at about £95 each, so go­ing to law is a plan with some pretty ma­jor draw­backs.

The op­tion of­fered by the ‘back­street’ garage is a much bet­ter plan. The ap­pren­tice made a mis­take. The pro­pri­etor did not check his work. It was an er­ror but it hap­pens. No real harmwas done, so you have no cause of action in English law. There was neg­li­gence, but there was no mean­ing­ful loss. With­out loss you have no claim. For what it is worth, I think the pro­pri­etor in the shop has treated you per­fectly fairly and I would sim­ply ac­cept his of­fer if I were you.


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