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Relevant or Related Legislation:

Sale and Supply of Goods Regulations. Trade Descriptions Act 1968. Road Traffic Acts

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q1. I have just bought a new/second-hand car and am unhappy with it, what are my rights?

Q2. My car had serious defects and the dealer I bought it from agreed to repair it although I am still dissatisfied, can I still demand a refund or compensation?

Q3. I have had my car serviced or repaired and I do not believe the job has been done properly. The repairer is  refusing to do anything about it, what are my rights?

Q4. What can I do if a dispute I am having reaches stalemate?

Q5. Is there an alternative to legal action?

Q6. What can I do if I was misled when buying/having my car repaired?

Q7. What can I do if the car I was sold or which has been returned following work has serious safety defects?

Q8. Whom do I complain to about the customer service I received at a garage I visited?

Q9. My car is under warranty, but the dealer is not prepared to carry out particular repairs - he says they are not covered. What can I do?

Q10. My car is under warranty but the manufacturer is no longer in a position to honour the warranty agreement. What happens now?

Q11. Are my rights different if I bought the car on credit?

Q12. What if I have bought a car from a private seller?

Q13. What can be done about phoenix businesses (businesses that are closed down but then start up again trading under a different name)?

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Q1. I have just bought a new/second-hand car and am unhappy with it, what are my rights?

Under sale of goods legislation (Sale of Goods Act 1979) consumers are entitled to expect that any goods they buy are of satisfactory quality. That is, that the goods meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory taking into account the way they are described, their price, and any other relevant circumstances, such as the fact that they are second-hand or used.

Matters which should be considered in assessing whether goods are of a satisfactory quality are:

• whether they are fit for the purpose for which goods of that kind are commonly supplied, or fit for any other specified purpose;

• whether they are of satisfactory appearance and finish and free from any defects;

• whether they are safe and durable and as described.

If a product that was not of satisfactory quality at the time of the sale is returned to the retailer, the buyer is entitled to a full refund (if it is within a reasonable time of the sale), or, if a “reasonable time “ has elapsed, to a reasonable amount of compensation. The consumer needs to demonstrate the goods were not of satisfactory quality at the time of sale. This is so if the consumer chooses to request an immediate refund or compensation. It is also the case for any product returned more than six months after the date of sale.

There is one exception – this is where the consumer returns the goods in the first six months from the date of sale and requests a repair or replacement or a partial refund. In that case, the consumer does not have to prove the goods were faulty at the time of sale. It is assumed that they were. ;If the retailer does not agree, it is for the retailer to prove that the goods were satisfactory at the time of sale.

Any legal proceedings to enforce a claim must be started within 6 years of the date of sale.

Q2. My car had serious defects and the dealer I bought it from agreed to repair it although I am still dissatisfied, can I still demand a refund or compensation?

Even where the buyer has agreed to allow the seller to repair faulty goods he is still entitled to a refund if the repair turns out to be unsatisfactory. After a reasonable time has lapsed, the purchaser is deemed to have accepted the goods and will not be entitled to a refund.

However, he will still be entitled to claim compensation for the actual loss resulting from defects which have come to light over the period. Exactly what might be deemed a reasonable time will depend on the circumstances of each case and, ultimately, could only be decided by a court.

Q3. I have had my car serviced or repaired and I do not believe the job has been done properly. The repairer is refusing to do anything about it, what are my rights?

Supply of Goods and Services legislation requires a trader to provide a service with reasonable care and skill. Any materials or parts supplied must be of satisfactory quality.

If a trader fails to observe these requirements the law treats the matter as breach of contract and, if necessary, a consumer can pursue the matter through the courts.

A local Citizens' Advice Bureau will be able to advise on the procedure to be pursued. The small claims procedure provides a straightforward way to bring a claim for up to 5000 to court without the need for a solicitor.

Q4. What can I do if a dispute I am having reaches stalemate?

If a dispute reaches the stage where a buyer is unable to gain satisfactory recompense from the seller then, ultimately, the only option may be to look to the courts to enforce these rights.

A local Citizens' Advice Bureau will be able to advise on the procedure and costs of taking action in the small claims court and the steps that can be taken to obtain any moneys owed following a successful prosecution.

Q5. Is there an alternative to legal action?

If the trader is a member of a trade association it may be possible to pursue disputes by way of the complaints procedure established under a code of practice. The codes set out the minimum standards of service members must follow and offer arbitration as an alternative to court action in cases of dispute.

For cases involving vehicles still under manufacturer's warrantee you should contact the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders by writing to:

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

New Car Code Conciliation Service

PO Box 44755

London

SW1X 7WU

In the case of used vehicles and repair and servicing the garage may be a member of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, The Vehicle Builders and Repairers’ Federation or the MVRA Ltd and you can write to:

National Conciliation Service

Retail Motor Industry Federation

2nd Floor, Chestnut House,

9 North Street

Rugby

CV21 2AB

MVRA Ltd

Glenfield Business Park

Philips Road

Blackburn

BB1 5QH

Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association

Belmont House

Gildersome

Leeds

LS27 7TW

Q6. What can I do if I was misled when buying/having my car repaired?

The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 makes it an offence for any person in the course of any trade or business make a statement which is false about goods or as to the provision of any services, accommodation or facilities.

The Act is enforced by local authority trading standards departments who can investigate complaints and, where necessary prosecute. You may, therefore, wish to consider bringing this matter to the attention of your local trading standards at your local Council.

Q7. What can I do if the car I was sold or which has been returned following work has serious safety defects?

Where a vehicle is sold with serious defects which might give cause for concern over its safety, the seller may have committed a criminal offence under section 75 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The Act states that no person shall sell, offer for sale or supply, or expose for sale, a vehicle deemed to be unroadworthy, unless the seller can prove that he had reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle would not be used on the road until it had been made roadworthy. “Supply” in this context may also be taken to mean return after servicing or repair. Though it would ultimately be for the courts to decide on the interpretation of the Act in any given set of circumstances. Furthermore, the Road Traffic Act 1991 requires dealers to make safety checks on their vehicles by requiring them to identify any unroadworthy vehicle they are offering for sale. The Road Traffic Acts are enforced by local authority trading standards departments.

Q8. Who do I complain to about the customer service I received at a garage I visited?

Firstly bring the matter to the attention of the garage and use any formal complaints procedure they may have. If they do not give you a satisfactory response then you can write to the manufacture if it is a franchised dealership/garage, or you can contact a relevant Trade Association if they belong to one (see Q5).

Q9. My car is under warranty, but the dealer is not prepared to carry out particular repairs - he says they are not covered. What can I do?

Where a warranty has been provided by a manufacturer, or a third party provider, it is a separate agreement (aside from the agreement between retailer and consumer for the sale of goods) between the manufacturer or third party provider and the consumer. The warranty is usually only enforceable against the manufacturer or third party provider (even though in the case of new car warranties it is usually the retailer network which actually provides the work and parts, the manufacturer or third party provider pays for that work).

The ability to enforce the agreement will depend on whether the party providing the warranty or guarantee is in a position to honour the agreement.

Q10. My car is under warranty but the manufacturer is no longer in a position to honour the warranty agreement. What happens now?

In the event that the manufacturer is no longer in a position to honour the warranty agreement, the retailer is unlikely to be under any obligation to provide any service under that warranty (there would be little or no prospect of that work being paid for by the manufacturer). However, independent of any warranty, consumers still have their normal rights under sale of goods legislation to expect that any goods they buy (including cars) be of satisfactory quality. These rights are enforceable against the retailer, not the manufacturer (see below).

It is important therefore to establish exactly who the warranty agreement is with. For example, second and third year warranties for cars are sometimes referred to as dealer warranties and it may be the case that the dealer or retailer, or a third party warranty provider, has obligations under those agreements, rather than the manufacturer.

If a warranty has been provided by a company which goes into liquidation, and the warranty is not backed by independent insurance, and the company is not in a position to honour the warranty, any claim by the consumer will be considered an unsecured, non-preferential debt (the consumer would need to make their claim known to the liquidators and would join the queue of creditors).

See also our Fact Sheet on MG/Rover Warranty issues

Q11. Are my rights different if I bought the car on credit?

If you have purchased a car by means of a loan or credit terms and this was arranged through the car dealer, then section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 provides that in certain circumstances the finance company is equally responsible with the car supplier for any breach of contract or misrepresentation. In this case compensation can also be sought from the finance company.

Q12. What if I have bought a car from a private seller?

When you buy privately you do not have so many rights. You can still expect the car to be as described and if it is not, you can sue for compensation.

Q13. What can be done about phoenix businesses (businesses that are closed down but then start up again trading under a different name)?

The Stop Now powers extended by the Enterprise Act allow swifter action against individuals who persistently trade in unfair waysIt is important for consumers and fair-dealing businesses that the powers are used as effectively as possible. The Office of Fair Trading, Trading Standards Departments and certain other consumer protection bodies, have been able to seek Stop Now Orders from the courts since June 2001. The Orders can stop various kinds of unlawful behaviour that harms the collective interests of consumers.

A Stop Now Order can be taken against individuals as well as a company and will therefore apply to the future conduct of that individual even if they set up in a new company. Breaching an Order could lead to fines and/or imprisonment for contempt of court.

Contacts

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) does not deal with individual consumer enquiries or complaints. If you have an enquiry please contact Consumer Direct at: www.consumerdirect.gov.uk (Tel: 08454 04 05 06). Consumers in Northern Ireland should contact Consumer Line on 0845 600 6262.

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