Pricewatch: Readers’ queries

This week’s consumer problems relate to a fault BMW says is not covered by warranty, and promised vouchers that were not forthcoming

The assembly line at BMW’s plant in Dingolfing, Germany. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

The assembly line at BMW’s plant in Dingolfing, Germany. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 12:23

BMW UNABLE TO HELP WITH TIMING CHAIN PROBLEM

A reader called Eamon bought a 2008 BMW 5 series 520 diesel, which, he tells us, was the first 5 series to have efficient dynamics and to fall under the cheaper tax bracket. It has an N47 engine.

“We were looking at changing our car, and on appraisal for trade-in were told we have a problem with the timing chain, which would cost about €5,000 to fix. We own the car about six months and paid €18,000 for it second hand. We had the car checked by BMW, and were told the timing chain did need replacing immediately and that the car shouldn’t be driven.

“When we came home we did a little internet research, to find to our surprise that there is an online petition with more than 5,000 signatures to have the N47 engines recalled because of this issue, and there was actually a BBC Watchdog piece done about this problem, which only arises when the car is out of warranty. Now there is info online that says BMW Germany has acknowledged the problem, and has even compensated drivers through its compensation scheme.

“The engine should not be built to fail, and with this track record, many unsuspecting drivers of BMWs with this engine face a similar issue to us – or worse if the chain breaks off and destroys the engine altogether.”

Eamon pleaded his case to his local BMW garage, which was staffed by “very helpful guys. They contacted BMW Ireland on our behalf” but no good came of it. So he called himself and was told: “the warranty was up in 2011 and while the company presents issues to its ‘goodwill contribution department’, it had already rejected our case, for reasons such as age, mileage etc. We are talking about a car that would have cost in access of €70,000 new, and still has a value of about €15,000 or maybe less than €10,000 if we have to pay to fix it. Is BMW seriously ignoring this issue?”

We contacted the company, but the news wasn’t much better.

“The car in question was first registered in the UK on April 3rd, 2008, and was sold at that time with a three-year warranty, which expired. Outside of this warranty period, while there is no obligation to assist with the cost of repairs, BMW operates a generous goodwill policy and will consider financial help, depending on the specific circumstances of each case. Where a fault has occurred on a vehicle with relatively low mileage, which has been serviced within the BMW network, the company may cover most of the repair cost out of goodwill, despite being outside of the warranty period,” a spokesman said.

“Older vehicles, which have not been serviced or repaired by BMW dealers or
BMW-authorised workshops, where there can be no certainty as to the quality of the work done or whether genuine BMW parts were used, are typically not covered.

“The use of non-genuine parts, which don’t match BMW specifications, can actually damage other components in the car or harm the performance of its vital systems.

“While we appreciate the disappointment this will have caused, we cannot provide an indefinite guarantee against engine or component failure, as no manufacturer can.”


BORD GÁIS ENERGY HONOURS VOUCHER PLEDGE

About three weeks before Christmas a reader from Wicklow saw an item in a Sunday newspaper that said Bord Gáis Energy was offering a €50 Tesco voucher to anyone who switched to them, so she switched.

“I was assured by the person who took all my account details that the €50 voucher would be winging its way to me before Christmas,” she writes.

By the end of January there was still no sign of it.

“I wrote to Bord Gáis Energy on December 24th, asking where my voucher was. I got the usual ‘we’re looking into it’ reply, which was followed later by one stating that I was not entitled to the voucher as I was on the wrong tariff or some such.”

She says that at no stage when giving details on the phone about her account with her previous energy supplier was any mention made of selecting any tariffs, and the company “just took all my details and said, ‘no problem, the €50 voucher is on its way to you’. I have been writing to them regularly, pointing this out to them, and they have been stalling and saying ‘they are looking into my complaint’ Can you help please?

We rang Bord Gáis Energy, after which the company contacted the customer and apologised for its administration error and for the delay in resolving her complaint.

The company stated: “We also explained that the correct procedures will be addressed and reiterated to call-centre employees through our internal training procedures.

“Bord Gáis Energy can confirm that this customer is now in receipt of the €50 Tesco voucher owed, in addition to a goodwill gesture because of the inconvenience caused.”

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