BBC Watchdog accuses RAC of selling batteries motorists don't need

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RAC patrolmen have been accused of selling batteries to stranded motorists when they don't actually need them.

The BBC's Watchdog programme revealed last night that some drivers had faced charges of up to £122 for a replacement battery after calling the emergency breakdown service.

It tested patrolmen by deliberately running 10 car batteries down before the drivers called the RAC for assistance. Investigators worked with experts to ensure that all the patrolmen had to do was recharge the battery and send the motorist on their way.

However, in eight out of the 10 cases, the RAC worker told the driver they'd have to buy a battery from them. The cost ranged between £111 and £122 and included a five-year guarantee.

Forensic vehicle examiners then re-tested the batteries the drivers had been told to replace and found that all were in good working order.

Following a callout earlier this year, motorist John Smith told the programme: "He said that he couldn't start the car because the battery was no good whatsoever.

"I said was he sure, you know, because the battery wasn't bad before and it wasn't very old.

"And he said that a cell has gone and there's no way the car will start with your battery on."

Smith kept the 'failed' battery and had it re-tested at a local shop, which said it was fine. He said the RAC initially refused to refund him but later changed its mind. He became one of a number of motorists who contacted the programme with this complaint.

The RAC has rejected Watchdog's findings and says it stands by the patrolmen who suggested drivers replace their batteries.

It said: "We are called out to 2.3 million breakdowns a year, over a quarter of which are battery-related. In response, this year the RAC rolled-out the world's most advanced battery testing technology."

"This extremely reliable equipment allows our patrols to carry out two tests rather than one which gives a more extensive battery health diagnosis."