FUMING motorists have been left stranded at the side of the road for up to 12 hours as complaints to Britain’s biggest breakdown companies double in one year.
Drivers who call AA and RAC for help have been forced to abandon their vehicles and beg friends and family to pick them up from roadsides.
Some even hired independent recovery firms to pick up their cars, despite paying annual breakdown service fees.
Complaints to the firms are expected to increase by the end of the financial year after figures showed the number of unsatisfied customers doubled last year.
Online dispute service Resolver dealt with 360 cases in 2016-17 but a year later the figure soared to 711.
And in the first five months of this year 446 complaints had already been logged.
The firm believes after 12 months there could be close to 1,000 complaints.
A legal loophole means that customers can only make official complaints to company regulators about the way they were sold an insurance policy, but not about issues with the service like long waiting time.
Martyn James, of Resolver, told the Daily Mail: “Increasing numbers of people are finding that when something goes wrong with their vehicle, the wait is excessive and the service simply isn’t good enough. “We have heard of people being left stranded overnight without any food or water.”
Breakdown coverage policies usually cost between £50 and £200 a per.
The AA has 3.3 million individual customers while the RAC has 2.2 million.
Gemma Rzepa, from Essex, was left stranded, alone and petrified all night by the side of the road when she blew a tyre and busted the wheel rim at 10pm earlier this year.
She said: “My Toyota warranty includes AA roadside assistance, so I called straight away and they told me they’d be there in an hour.
“At 11pm there was still no sign of anyone.
“I phoned again in tears and the AA told me someone would be there in 45 minutes, but two hours later there was still no one.
“It was a freezing cold night with driving rain and I was having to wee by the side of the car holding an umbrella.
“I couldn’t keep the car heating on because the battery would go flat and I was worried my phone was going to run out of charge.
“Around 3am a recovery driver finally pulled up and tried to fix the tyre, but as I had already told the AA on the phone, the wheel needed replacing and he didn’t have a spare.
“The driver told me he couldn’t tow me home as he had been called to another incident elsewhere, but I don’t understand why that was more urgent.”
Paul Cook, 43, was driving from a meeting in London when his Volvo S80 broke down at 3pm last month.
He was still 70 miles from home when he pulled over at the side of the A30 just off the M25 by Virginia Water.
Paul, who pays £130 a year for breakdown cover, called the RAC and a mechanic arrived in 45 minutes.
After working on the car for an hour he said the car was fixed and sent Paul on his way.
But just ten minutes after he started driving again there was another issue and he had to ring again.
The RAC told him someone would arrive within a couple of hours – but no one came.
At 8pm he got a call to say someone would arrive at 10pm, at 10pm he was told 11pm and at 11pm he was told midnight, the Mail reports.
It was not until 3am that another mechanic finally arrived – 12 hours after he first called.
A spokesman for the AA said: “A harsh winter, Britain’s appalling potholed roads and a long hot summer have put pressure on the UK’s breakdown services and garages, with the AA seeing a sharp increase in calls for roadside assistance.
“Sometimes this has meant it took longer to reach our members than we would wish. We know we can improve so are investing in more AA roadside and recovery patrols as well as frontline staff, including in our contact centres.”
A spokesman for the RAC said: “As a responsible business we take all complaints seriously and aim to resolve them as quickly as we can.
“Following the harsh winter weather and the hottest summer on record, we saw large increases in breakdown volumes which inevitably led to more complaints.
“We have taken steps to reduce long waits and are improving the way we communicate with members who need their vehicles recovered.”
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