Thursday 14 December 2017

Will I have to pay more for car insurance and lose my no claims bonus after living abroad?

Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to ‘Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1 (Stock picture)
Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to ‘Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1 (Stock picture)

Aine Carroll

I have been living in the United States for 18 months but I am planning to move home to Ireland soon. I have a full, clean Irish driving licence and had my own insurance policy before I emigrated. That policy included a three-year no claims discount. I have not been driving while I have been away and I am a little concerned about the impact this will have on my premium when I return. Will I have any issues taking out a policy in the future?

Pauline, Greenwich Village, New York

Generally speaking, a no-claims discount is valid for two years after the expiry of a policy. So if it is longer than two years since your last policy expired, you may have lost your no-claims discount and end up paying more than you expected for your insurance.

Companies typically look at a number of factors when you look for a motor insurance quote - such as your number of years driving experience, your no-claims discount, the age of the car, what the car is used for, previous driving convictions, and so on. You may also be asked if you have been living abroad and for how long.

To get the most competitive quote, you should contact a number of insurance companies and discuss your situation with them. You may also wish to contact a broker who will then contact a number of companies on your behalf.

I SIGNED up to a personal contract plan (PCP) three years ago to buy a new car. My agreement is due to finish at the end of March and I am not clear on what to do next. I signed up to it originally as the monthly repayments seemed attractive and I liked having a new car. Can I keep the car or should I consider taking out another PCP?

Patrick, Finglas, Dublin 11

Similar to a hire-purchase agreement, a PCP is an agreement between you and a finance company. This means that for an agreed period (usually three years), you make monthly payments on a car to the finance company. A PCP normally has relatively small monthly repayments, which can make the plan seem very affordable. However PCPs also have a very large final payment called the 'guaranteed minimum future value' (GMFV) or 'balloon payment'.

As you have now reached the end of your PCP agreement, you have a number of options. Your first option is to keep the car and pay the GMFV or 'balloon' payment which is due. The GMFV is the amount you will have to pay to own the car at the end of the agreement. It is calculated by the finance company at the outset of the agreement and is based on its estimate of the future value of the car at the end of the agreement. It takes into account factors such as the value of car you are buying, the length of the agreement, the condition of the car at the end of the agreement, and your annual mileage. It should be detailed in your original agreement but you will need to check the final figure with the garage who provided you with the finance. Once you pay this, you will then be the legal owner of the car.

A second option is to hand the car back to the dealership and make no further payments. This will be subject to the car's condition and service history. If, for example, the mileage is higher than that set out in the terms and conditions of the PCP agreement or the condition of the car is beyond what would be considered normal wear and tear, you may have to make an additional payment. Your final option is to return the car and enter into a new PCP agreement for a new car. The garage you are dealing with will decide what, if any, equity you may have to put down as a deposit towards a new PCP agreement. Any equity you get may be less than the deposit required for taking out a new PCP agreement so you may need to top up the deposit. If you agree to buy a new car, you will be entering into a new agreement. So make sure to read the fine print again.

MY local supermarket regularly sells tins of beans individually even though it clearly says on the tins that they are not to be sold separately. Are shops allowed to do this?

Maeve, Islandbridge, Dublin 8

Under consumer law, shops must display the selling price of every item offered for sale and, where required, a unit price in euro. This ensures that consumers have the necessary information to compare prices. Selling items as a 'multipack' is a recommendation by the manufacturer of the product rather than a legal requirement. So there is no breach of consumer law when a retailer splits a multi-pack to sell items individually - once the correct price is displayed.

You could however make a complaint about the shop to the manufacturer of the product as the shop may not be acting in the spirit of the offer intended by the manufacturer.

I GOT a voucher as a Christmas present. However, I have turned the house upside-down and can't find it. Is there any way the business will honour the voucher if it's lost?

Michelle, Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny

Unfortunately if you lose a gift voucher, it is just like losing cash and the business does not have to replace it. But if the voucher was made out to you specifically and is not transferable to another person, the shop may be able to issue you a new one and cancel the original voucher.

Another option is to explain your situation to the person who gave you the gift voucher. The shop may consider issuing you with a new voucher if the person who bought it can show proof of purchase, such as a receipt or credit or debit card statement.

I'M worried there may be contaminated fuel in my car. I understand the bill to repair the damage could run into the thousands. If contaminated fuel is the cause of my car's problems, can I get compensation from the garage which I believe sold me the contaminated fuel - or should I claim for the damage on my car insurance?

Brendan, Leixlip, Co Kildare

There is no regulatory body in place in Ireland for the regulation of fuel. However, if you suspect that your petrol or diesel may have been contaminated, you should consider getting it tested independently.

If you find out you have purchased contaminated fuel, you should report it to the service station where you think you bought it. If the service station can't or won't offer you a remedy, you have other options.

If you are at a financial loss as a direct consequence of a fault with a product or service, you may be entitled to claim for "consequential loss." Therefore, if you cannot resolve your issue, you can raise it with the Registrar of the Small Claims Process to establish if a claim such as yours would be accepted by the Registrar. The Small Claims process can accept cases up to the value of €2,000 and there is a current non-refundable fee of €25 to submit a claim.

Some insurance policies may cover damage caused by contaminated fuel so check the terms of your policy to see if you are covered. You will usually have to provide evidence to your insurer that it was contaminated fuel which caused the damage. Remember that claiming for the damage will result in you losing your no-claims discount.

Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.

While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

Director of Communications and Market Insights with the CCPC (www.ccpc.ie)

Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to ‘Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1’.

While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

Sunday Indo Business

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