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JUDGE TREAD: STUNG BY A JEEP TRICK; Legal expert OLLIE MISHCON answers your motoring questions.

Byline: OLLIE MISHCON

Q WE have been driving a used Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee after agreeing a two-year contract with a finance company.

The firm provided us with a fair-wear-and-tear policy booklet and at the end of the contract we inspected the vehicle to make sure we would not have to pay any penalty fees. Even the representative of the firm contracted to collect the Jeep didn't seem to think anything was wrong.

Yet the finance firm has now presented us with a pounds 1,687.68 bill to cover repairs and excess mileage.

The work they carried out includes what we regard as normal wear and tear under the terms of the policy booklet... and some not even listed.

Some of the repairs they carried out would have caused the Jeep to fail an MoT if they had not been done - yet it sailed through the test in March. We strongly disagree with the finance company's assessment and have refused to pay for the repairs, which were carried out before we were consulted. We feel the firm has mistreated us. What's your legal advice?

- Mark and Jacqueline Evers via email.

A THIS is not the first time I have heard of this happening and it is a disgrace. You are entitled to return the vehicle with reasonable wear and tear but certain motor manufacturers are trying to extort significant sums for repairs which, if carried out, would bring the vehicle up to a standard much higher than that required by law.

I spoke to my pal Graham Hill, an expert on car finance and former president of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers, who has seen a trick or two like this in his time. Here is his advice based on 30 years in the game:

"This problem has been around for years and is becoming more common as lenders have had to reduce margins in order to maintain the number of deals following increasing competition on the internet. Most of the culprits are manufacturers' finance companies providing finance through the dealer. It is a total scam but because customers don't always complain they get away with it.

"My advice in these cases is to make sure that the car is returned in a reasonable state - and a three-year-old car with 60,000 miles on the clock cannot be expected to be in showroom condition. Then challenge any charges and refuse to pay them if you think that they are unreasonable.

"Take lots of photos inside and outside of the car before it is returned. Insist on the finance firm supplying photos of any supposed damage or insist on an independent inspection before any work is carried out. And don't forget to cancel your direct debit before the car is returned."

Let me know if YOU have had similar problems with car finance companies.

CAPTION(S):

Returning Cherokee proved costly
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 3, 2007
Words:482
Previous Article:LAW LETS YOU LOSE OUT.
Next Article:JUDGE TREAD: 95MPH DRIVER PULLS FAST ONE; Legal expert OLLIE MISHCON answers your motoring questions.
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