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Three cars damaged … but bang goes any compensation

Anna Tims
Admitting the damage: but when a convoy of trolleys damaged a car in a Sainsbury’s car park there was excuse after excuse. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Damaged cars and your rights to compensation are the theme of the week. AP of Sheffield was parked at Sainsbury’s when it was struck by a convoy of trolleys being pushed by a staff member. “He left a note admitting what had happened,” she writes. “The store manager told me to ring customer services and customer services referred me back to the store.

“I called head office and was told to obtain two quotes for the repair and give them to the store for authorisation. I did this, and was then told only head office could authorise repairs.

“A month later, after much chasing, I was referred to an approved garage and told they would deal with it directly. The garage said it could not do the repairs as they were waiting for payment from Sainsbury’s.

“Two months on, I’ve tried to raise an official complaint but no response.”

Meanwhile, RS of South Normanton, Derbyshire was filling up at a Shell garage when a metal sign fell onto her car, damaging a door. That was a year ago. “I keep being fobbed off with excuses,” she says.

CB of Lichfield was driving into a Tesco car park when a missile hit leaving two dents. “I could see liquid up the bonnet and on the adjacent car,” she says. “I told staff who said security had already been called to the car park as there had been reports of trouble. I was advised to fill in a car damage report form, but then received a letter saying that Tesco could not help.

“I’ve been quoted £360 for repairs. I think Tesco should take responsibility. It’s likely the bottle was bought or stolen from their store – there was a huge display right in the entrance!”

The Sainsbury’s case is the most clear-cut. A store employee admitted causing the damage and it’s disgraceful that the company ignored its responsibilities for three months. The money was only paid to the garage when the Observer got involved and Sainsbury’s tells me that it has apologised for the delay. AP has since received a £50 gift voucher to coax her back to the store.

Sainsbury’s emerges shining with virtue compared to HKS Retail which owns the Shell garage. Its strategy to deal with inconvenient issues is to ignore them. Two emails to their communications department for a comment go unanswered and a promised call back doesn’t happen.

If the sign was put there by the garage and fell because it was inadequately secured, RS could claim that it breached a duty of care, but since the company is unwilling to cooperate, she would have to do this through the Small Claims Court and could be faced with stiff fees if she loses.

No luck for CB either. This is because there’s no evidence that the damage was caused by store negligence and Tesco tells me it does not accept liability for damage caused by unknown third parties.

John Midgley, at law firm Seddons, says that to bring a legal claim you would have to demonstrate that Tesco was negligent. “Many supermarket car parks have signs advising customers that parking is ‘at their own risk’ and you are unlikely to succeed in a small claim when the incident was caused by someone’s criminal behaviour.”

Unfortunately, CB will have to claim from her insurer and swallow the excess.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number.