The Daily Telegraph - Money

Fighting for your money

We are facing £15,500 engine repair bill after insurer rejected accidental misfuellin­g claim

- Sally Hamilton

QRecently, I mistakenly poured AdBlue exhaust emission additive into the diesel tank of my Audi Q8 instead of into the special AdBlue reservoir. The filler caps are about one inch apart. I did not realise my mistake until I had driven about 100 yards and the car cut out.

I had the vehicle towed and was told that the repair bill would be £15,500.

I called our insurer, Tesco Bank, and argued that this was accidental damage, for which I had paid extra. After all, I had “accidental­ly” added AdBlue to the tank.

The insurer initially said we were not covered because “contaminat­ed fuel” was excluded from the cover. I argued this wasn’t contaminat­ed fuel according to a definition that I found, which said it becomes so when “contaminat­ed or tainted with algae, water, rust, sediment and organic matter that collects toward the bottom of fuel tanks found at service stations”.

I argued my case and a week later the insurer phoned back and said it had made a mistake on the original call because the claim handlers did not understand what AdBlue was, believing it was fuel.

I started making arrangemen­ts for the repairs, but then I received another call from Tesco stating that we were not covered after all and it was closing the case, leaving us to pay £15,500.

My wife and I are extremely distressed. We paid extra for accidental damage cover and the insurance company has washed its hands of us.

Our business has been shut for a year due to the pandemic and now we face having to take out a large loan just to get the car roadworthy again. – JB, Bradford AI

was shocked to read that such a simple mix-up has left you facing a potential £15,500 bill. How galling for you to have been told initially that your claim was rejected, then valid, and then for it to be denied again.

I spoke to Tesco on your behalf and argued, as you did, that surely the claim should be accepted under your accidental damage cover.

While Tesco agreed that the addition of AdBlue to the fuel tank was “accidental on the part of the customer” it remained firm in rejecting the claim due to a specific policy exclusion. You would need to turn to page 13 in your documentat­ion to find it, but the policy does not cover any claim relating to damage caused by contaminat­ed fuel – but not using the definition you had found online.

A spokesman said: “By adding AdBlue to the wrong inlet on the car, the fuel has been contaminat­ed and this contaminat­ed fuel has caused damage to the car. It is for this reason that the policy cover is excluded.”

In the end, all it offered you was £ 200 because of the confusion its staff caused over whether you would be covered for the incident. You now plan to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

I asked Laura Howard at Forbes Advisor UK, a comparison site, whether this exclusion was common.

She said: “When it comes to whether your insurer will provide cover for misfuellin­g – it’s a case of luck of the draw.”

She explained that many insurers would exclude misfuellin­g, while others would include it under their accidental damage element of cover. Where misfuellin­g protection is offered, levels of cover also vary. Some insurers will cover the full cost of repairs, while others limit payouts to the draining and cleaning of the fuel tank.

Your experience confirms the importance of checking a motor policy closely, however many pages it runs to, especially given that it appears insurers are increasing­ly opting to exclude misfuellin­g or contaminat­ed fuel from their cover.

Defaqto, the data analysis company, found that in 2016 49pc of insurers excluded misfuellin­g, while in 2020

The AA saw just 30 cases of AdBlue being mistakenly added to diesel tanks last year

that proportion had risen to 59pc.

Despite this disappoint­ing trend, a breakdown recovery service should be able to help when a misfuellin­g incident occurs. The AA, for example, fixes around 15,000 fuel mishaps a year, and will drain and wash a tank of the wrong fuel and give drivers enough of the correct fuel to get them on their way.

Most misfuellin­g mistakes are due to putting petrol into a diesel engine and vice versa. But it appears to be a particular­ly expensive error to put AdBlue in the fuel tank. It is a liquid that helps to clean up diesel emissions, including turning nitrogen dioxide gas into harmless nitrogen and water, but it is extremely corrosive.

Ms Howard added: “It will damage the fuel tank, pump and injection system – which can run into thousands of pounds of repair costs. It also cannot be removed from your tank in the petrol station or by the side of the road, so breakdown services will also need to tow you to a garage”.

The AA saw just 30 cases of AdBlue being mistakenly added to diesel tanks last year. The infrequenc­y makes me more vexed about your failed claim, because it is these rare disasters that insurance is meant to be designed for.

Drivers should never fill up a car in a hurry, when distracted or in poor light.

Audi said its AdBlue caps were a distinctiv­e blue and smaller than a fuel cap, which should help. But adding stickers inside caps can be a good reminder to think again.

Diesel car owners can insert a stopper device in the diesel slot so a petrol nozzle will not fit.

If you do make a blunder, it is important to resist turning on the engine. This will avoid causing serious damage. Instead, call your breakdown company and insurer to see what can be done.

If you are not a member of a recovery service, it is usually possible to join over the phone then and there.

NatWest charged me £600 over 12 years to store two A4 envelopes

QI have a private account with NatWest, with whom I have banked for decades. Recently, I was going through my statements and discovered that I had been charged £50 a year – two payments of £25 each – since 2009 for something called “safe custody hold”. Before 2009, there were no charges.

I rang the bank to ask what these charges were for, and was told they were for two A4 envelopes that had been held at the bank since 1995. I have subsequent­ly visited the Wilmslow branch to reclaim the envelopes to find they contained two out- of- date wills made in 1986.

From 1995 until 2009, the bank stored them free of charge. I asked the bank to give me details of when and how it had informed me of the intention to bring in charges for the storage.

Over the period, the charges amounted to £598, so you will understand that I am feeling somewhat aggrieved by this sleight of hand on NatWest’s part. – RE, Cheshire

A When I contacted NatWest, it could not say when you were told about the introducti­on of the custody charges on your account, but simply commented that these were the current fees that the bank made for safe custody of a will or other document.

However, your bank account will soon be looking a little healthier, as after my interventi­on, NatWest reviewed your case.

As you have banked with it for many years, are a valued customer and did not receive the service you should have done when trying to query the mystery charges you had spotted, it decided to refund the full £598 as a gesture of goodwill.

You have now removed the two offending envelopes from the branch that had been holding them for you all these years, so there is no risk of any more unwanted charges being taken in future.

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