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  #1  
Old 1 Nov 2011
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Hungarian Highway Scam ....just a word of warning!

If you breakdown on highway at night! .... be wary of official recovery

see this .... I should have known better!!

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 46) rather 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. 15-20 minutes 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 1000 euro.
• 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.

Regards

Gavin Bell

gavin_bell2003@yahoo.co.uk
Mobile +40 727 876476
Efax +44 845 1274414
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  #2  
Old 8 Nov 2011
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Good choice to let all of us know this hassle, thanks!

If I were you, I would send this report to some official bureaus in Hungary such as the local Dept. of Transportation, Police Headquarter of Gyor and so on...
telling them that this bad experience of yours is now travelling all over the Internet.
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  #3  
Old 9 Nov 2011
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Good posting.
I may be in that area next summer.
Thanks for the info.

Rory
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  #4  
Old 9 Nov 2011
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Get a Magyar speaker to explain the German phrase "Ungarishen Betyar" which was a popular reference a few years ago. Or even a German speaker.
I lived in Hungary for 10 years and this country is still an enigma politically, economically, and socially.
I am sad for your experience .........but not surprised at all.
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Old 11 Nov 2011
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I live in Croatia, 150km from Hungarian border and I'm hearing about stories like this one every now and then.
But you see Hungary is not an isolated case similar thing happened to me last year in Prague.
I had an accident, I called the police and in a few minutes this guy came with towing truck and bunch of papers for me to sign.
The scam goes like this, they "promise" (written on Czech, his translation ) you a replacment car if you give your car in their workshop of course first they are silent about the prices.
After they charge you heavily for everything, towing, repairs and replacmet car.
I was lucky that police came quickly and told me that this guy is a frouad and told him to take a hike.
I think that for a someone who travels extensively some kind of international service like ADAC or similar is a must.

Last edited by Nixa; 11 Nov 2011 at 15:25.
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