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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 29200
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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I am trying to help a Hong Kong couple who recently arrived

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Hi.I am trying to help a Hong Kong couple who recently arrived in the UK.They broke down on the M1 and someone stopped and said they knew someone who could 'help.' Rapid Auto Assist gave them a verbal quote of £250 to take them the 23 miles home to Harpenden but on the way then said they would have to pay mileage as well.They asked the driver to stop but he didn't and when they refused to pay £500 for the 23 mile journey they took the car and are changing them £80 per day for 'storage.' This seems to be despicable abuse of foreigners.I would be grateful for your advice.
JA: Have you talked to a lawyer about this? In which country do you live? If different, which country is your legal question related to?
Customer: UK.St Albans.
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: I have contacted Rapid Auto Assist by phone,email and registered letter.
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: No.That is the basic summary except that when the couple called the Police they were told that they couldn't help as their car was on the lorry and not on the ground.Basically this scam is about false imprisonment (the driver wouldn't stop so their bill went up) and extortion (you don't get your car back without giving us more money.It is now about £2000).

Hello and thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 15 years’ experience. Please be aware that although I will endeavour to reply to you promptly, I am also in full time private practice and so I may not be available to respond immediately and it may also take me a few minutes to prepare a reply. The site will notify you as soon as I respond. I look forward to working with you to answer your question fully.

I am very sorry to read of the above and I imagine what a difficult position it must be. I will certainly try to clarify your options.

May I confirm if they signed any agreement in relation to the towing please?

Customer: replied 8 days ago.
Thank you.No - When I spoke to Jay at Rapid Auto Assist he said that because it was an emergency no paperwork was required so it is their word against Anita and Man Fu Ho's (my guess is that this is part of the scam).Their website does not appear to be working but here are their details - https://www.yell.com/biz/rapid-auto-assist-chigwell-8856368/
Customer: replied 8 days ago.
https://www.instagram.com/rapidautoassist/?hl=en-gb

Thank you. from what you describe, there are two principle bases on which they can recover the vehicle. Before we get to that, it would be helpful to briefly examine the legal position. From what you describe, there is no contract in relation to the service provided other than verbal agreement of which both parties will have different versions. Because there is no definitive statement of fees, the consumer rights act intervenes to provide that the fees charged for the service must be reasonable. The amount the company is seeking to charge on the face of it appears to be excessive and is unlikely to be enforced by a court because it is unlikely to be seen as reasonable which is contrary to the term implied by the consumer rights act.

A total company does not have a lien over a vehicle. A lien is a legal right to retain property in certain situations. The most obvious connected with the case like this would be where you take a car to a garage for a repair. This is an example of a legal lien where the garage can refuse to release the car until the bill is paid. Because no lien arises in relation to a tow truck company, there withholding of the vehicle is unlawful and contrary to the Torts ( interference with goods) Act.

In terms of how they may deal with this, there are two principle ways in which they can deal with the issue. The first is to pay under protest using a credit or debit card and then recover the money after recovering the vehicle. The way they can recover the money of paying by card is to contact their bank or card issuer and issue a chargeback on the basis that the amount charged has been overcharged where the only agreed a lesser amount.

The alternative is they could issue whata is known as a Torts claim in the county court using form N244:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-n244-application-notice

there is a fee of £255 which they can seek to recover and they would need to set out in the application that the company has unlawfully detained their vehicle contrary to the above act and for a court order that the car is returned to them. Before issuing proceedings in court, it would be sensible for them to notify the company involved demanding the return of the vehicle and offering to pay what was agreed failing which warned them that they will be applying to court for a court order for the return of the vehicle together with costs as there is no legal basis for them to detain the vehicle

Joshua and 3 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 days ago.
Thanks Joshua.That's really helpful.Chris.

I'm glad the above answers all your questions. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me otherwise thank you very much for visiting JustAnswer and I hope we will see you again in the future.

Customer: replied 5 days ago.
Thanks.The Hong Kong couple get their car back tomorrow for the original agreed fee as a result of your help and that of my neighbour who works as a loss adjuster.It was a Bait and Switch scam and the lien was illegal as the Police had not requested recovery.Thanks again.Chris.

I'm glad the above was of some assistance - thanks for leting me know the outcome.