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Highway robbery in Hungary... anyone else ? (Bucharest)

Wondering if anyone else has had bad experiences with SOS breakdown on Hungarian highways? See below......

Highway Robbery at night on Hungarian Motorways

I am writing to you and all the other organisations that this has been copied to, in order to raise awareness of a potentially illegal activity that is taking place probably every night on the main highway into Hungary.

Foreign motorists that have the misfortune to breakdown on the highway at night and seek assistance through the ‘official’ SOS system are being targeted to extract large amounts of money from them.

On Monday 24th October I drove to Hungary. Whilst driving from Gyor to Budapest on the M1 in very bad weather my windscreen wipers failed just as I was entering a section of roadworks. Concerned for the risk of accident I used the SOS phone (at marker Protected content than ringing my international breakdown company first. The operator told me he would send a service truck.

A recovery truck arrived in 30 mins, loaded me and then we moved down to the next fuel station. The driver told me that there was a non-stop mechanic was back in Gyor – I questioned this as we were closer to Budapest – he told me there was no one in Budapest! So back to Gyor we went.

Leaving the highway we drove to a remote ‘workshop’ on a scrapyard near the village of Győrújbarát. Unloading the car – I was told the recovery charge was 300€. This is high even by western European standards – but I paid it as covered by my insurance. I paid 300€ in cash and requested an invoice – this was given in HUF. However when later checking against the exchange rate – the sum on the invoice in huf was less than 300€. I wonder who receives the difference?

Whilst I waited for the mechanic to repair my car – there was a young polish family having an electrical fault fixed. Once the car was fixed – they asked the cost and were told 160€. They were very shocked and argued that it did not take long and the price was too high. They tried negotiating a lower price at which point the mechanic started asking for higher amounts 170… 180... So with no other choice they paid and left.

I took my car into the workshop – my problem was very simple to fix. One of the windscreen wiper arms had stripped its thread. Protected content later and with 2 second hand wipers off a crashed car in the yard – it was repaired.

With my car still in the workshop – we went to the office and I asked how much? I was told 160€. As this was an extremely high and unreasonable charge – I challenged it and tried to argue a fairer (but still high) price. I was told that 160€ was the price – end of story. I was then ignored. This felt like a well-practiced routine.

As I was alone in an unknown location with two large criminal looking men, my car was in the workshop – so no possibility of getting any help. Therefore I had no choice other than to pay. They would not give me an invoice. I then left.

This situation is presumably being repeated with foreign motorists each night who breakdown on this section of motorway. These are guests in Hungary who are in need of assistance, expecting good safe help after having requested help from the official SOS service and then effectively find themselves extorted out of unreasonable amounts of money.

This is verging on illegal and gives a very bad impression of Hungary. Hungarian motorways used to have a really bad reputation for corrupt police – this has now appeared to disappear. The Hungarian motorway network is now a very high standard and you would expect emergency support to reach the same levels.

• The mechanic is obviously not paying tax on the huge amounts of he is making. He would not give a receipt. I saw a bundle of euro’s that was probably in excess of Protected content .
• The recovery drivers are obviously complicit in this and probably even receiving a commission. After the Polish car left – one recovery driver returned and had a private discussion with the mechanic.
• The charges for both the mechanic and the recovery are hugely unreasonable – even with the assumption that you would pay a higher rate than normal for ‘out of hours’ emergency service.
• Motorists are being taken by the ‘Official’ SOS recovery service to this location late at night where they are vulnerable and basically end up being robbed.

The mechanic was introduced to me as ‘Sabi’ (Szabi?) – attached is a map and google map satellite image of the location of the workshop. It is on the edge of Győrújbarát. It was a metal shed. In the yard was a building site to build a bigger workshop. Close to the workshop is a crashed Land Rover Discovery.

The recovery lorry was blue and white – attached is a scan of the invoice showing the company details.

This activity is harmful for the image of Hungary and Hungarians, for the reputation of the Motorway Agency and is immoral – verging on criminal. This needs investigating and stopping urgently. Rather than risking this piracy – it would be better to ensure control of breakdown services on the highways is under the charge of a professional organisation such as Magyar Autoklub.

I have spent many years travelling through, staying in and on some occasions working with Hungarian based organisations. I actively promote Hungary – encouraging people to visit rather than just transit the country. It is sad to think for some people their first and lasting impression is that Hungarians are nasty criminal extortionists ……

I am going to send this letter widely in the hope that something will be done to stop this, ensure that the mechanic is exposed and punished (for tax evasion in the very least) and ensure that if a guest in Hungary breaks down at night they get safe and professional help.
I look forward to your response. I am fully open to discussion on this matter.


Gavin Bell

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