I have had a long and frustrating situation with my car which has recently come to a frustrating head.
- I bought a used Peugeot 208 Style for £8,399 with finance in the form of an unsecured loan.
I was not informed of this at the time, the vehicle did not have a full service history, and I didn't know to ask, this being my first car, and my dad specialises in old cars, which are lucky to have any service history at all, so he didn't think to ask.
Within a month, I was having issues with the car stalling and pulling to the right on larger, open roads where you actually drive in a straight line for a period of time.
I brought this up to the dealership, who did not record anything, did not inspect the car and simply said that as I was a new driver, I'd get used to it.
I never had issues with stalling a car previously, and passed my test on the first attempt, but I figured that it was likely that this was normal.
But the stalling wasn't the usual kind, it happened shortly after I finished changing gear, I would change gear, there would be a short moment and then the car would stall.
The issue kept getting worse, until the car was stalling regularly, several times a trip.
This is when I took it back to the garage on 04/09/2017, where they initially blew me off, then agreed to look at it.
But they would not provide a vehicle. I had to hire one, which was only possible through their account with a local car hire company.
I returned the following day to be told there was nothing wrong with the car. Shortly after driving it away, it stalled again.
I was then informed by my insurance company that it had been driven at 85mph in a 50mph limit area, at a time that it was with the garage. When questioned, the garage replied that I hadn't told them it had a black box, as if that was relevant. They reluctantly provided a letter for my insurance company, so that my insurance would not be cancelled over the issue.
I took it back to them on the 8th, they had it for a week to investigate that and multiple other issues, with squealing brakes and the gearbox grinding, and told me there was nothing wrong. I then said I wanted to reject the car and was told to speak to the sales team.
Who then lead me through a bait and switch, pretending they were honouring my request to reject the vehicle, instead setting me up for an unfavourable part exchange, the finance for which was not approved.
They then suggested that my dad take out finance for my car.
There is one provider where doing this is legal, and yet they proposed three credit checks.
I called them out in the illegality of this procedure, and yet they still harassed me and my father about going through with the illegal finance application. We declined.
In a further incident, there was a problem with the oil, and it was taken back to the garage, where they fixed everything, didn't charge me, said it was not done under warranty, and yet said the issue was my fault. The issue was that the oil filler cap had not been on properly. I had never touched the oil filler cap. They also showed a picture which clearly showed a buildup of mud under the car from when the vehicle was pulled backwards during recovery, and tried to claim that this happened when I pulled up on the verge. I wrote to the garage at this time and said that if they were unable to fix the vehicle, I was rejecting it. This email was ignored.
I then took it to an independent garage to have the clutch assessed, as I was starting to think that the car had been significantly worn by the previous owner. I was told by the head mechanic that the clutch was significantly worn, and even without any issues, it would fail in 3-6 months.
He said in his professional opinion, there was no way this had been caused by my wear on the car. He also said that there was something wrong with the pedal, but he couldn't put his finger on it at the time, said he would need more time to investigate it to be definitive, time he did not have at that moment, so he could not include this issue in his report.
10 days later the issue that was causing all these clutch problems became a lot more apparent- the clutch was sticking, just below the bite point. I hadn't noticed this before, as it was sticking close to the top of the travel, near the bite point of the clutch, so when I removed my foot, the reduced pressure from the clutch pedal seemed natural, related to the bite point of the car.
The stalling was being caused by a milder "stick", as I was pulling the clutch up, then it must have been fading slowly over the bite point, causing the strange stalling motion, as it stalled when it actually pulled over the bite.
By now the car was revving excessively, as if I hadn't removed my foot from the clutch at all, and although I couldn't identify it at the time, as I was used to the clutch stopping before the end of the travel, it was not coming all the way up. The clutch failed that day.
The car was recovered to the dealership, and I wrote them another rejection letter, authorising another garage to inspect the vehicle to confirm the issue. At no point did I authorise the Bristol Street Motors that I had purchased the car from to inspect the car.
In a phone conversation, one of their managers suggested they would assess it to see if I could have a warranty repair, but this was prior to my letter, where I clearly stated I wanted a different garage to look at the car in line with the rejection.
During this period, I needed a car, which I am unable to hire privately, and there was no spare car around for me to insure myself on to drive. So I said that they could either provide a hire car, or I could insure myself on one of their cars, so I could be mobile.
I had previously been denied a courtesy car from them, based on insurance underwriting, but when they had been checking my licence, I was given the full impression that this was a free service. The dealership emailed me back saying the only way I would get a car was to hire one, through them, for a maximum of two weeks, at £20 per day. As I did not have information on their courtesy car policies, I had to accept the information at hand, and said I would pay. This would change, as it turned out the information provided was false.
They called to ask for authorisation to remove the gearbox, which I provided. These two statements were the only authorisation I ever gave. Then, the dealership removed the clutch and handed that to an independent company to inspect where, as one would based only on this evidence, they stated that it looked worn, consistent with abnormal operator technique.
After a conversation with a mechanic, I have been advised that one remedy for a sticking pedal is to remove the parts and manipulate them, so even if I have the real issue inspected now, its quite likely that they have removed the evidence of this.
They then wrote to say they will not be accepting my rejection of the vehicle, sending a document full of inaccuracies, which I corrected in a reply. They then stated that despite this, they would not consider their position, and I would be expected to collect the car.
In this letter, they then proved that the information provided about a hire car was false; they stated they were unable to provide courtesy cars to those with less than 6 months of driving experience. They clearly knew, as they stated the date I passed my test in their letter (20/04/2017) and the date I purchased the car, that I had over six months of driving experience, and therefore should have been eligible for a courtesy car, at no cost to me. They had lied to me, and thus caused me to go to an expense that I should not have incurred. Hence, I disputed the hire costs in full. Especially as they had now left me without a vehicle, and reliant on my father to get to work, 20 miles from home.
It's also worth noting that they expected me to collect the vehicle with it's gearbox and clutch still out.
A couple of days later, on 21/01/2018, after the dealership had closed, I was informed I would be charged £10 per day storage, starting 22/01/2018.
I was never given any terms and conditions when dropping the car off, and was awaiting a response from their chosen mediation service, the motor ombudsman, before taking any action. But based on this, and the idea that I was willing to entertain an alternate resolution, where they paid to repair the car and then give me a partial refund down to the current value of the goods, I prepared to collect the car.
I went to the dealership 31/01/2018 to collect the vehicle.
I had also called consumer helpline, as the only charges I had been informed of were for hire cars and storage.
They stated that the garage had no right to hold the car over these charges unless they had a high court enforcement order (they don't) and should they try to hold the car over these charges alone, I was to call the police, as the holding of my car was in this case, criminal.
I asked to leave with the car, I was told that I had to pay the hire and storage charges before I leave with the car. In line with this, I told them what consumer helpline had told me, and they informed me their legal department had said they should not release the car until payment had been made. No mention was made of any costs they can exercise a lien over.
So I called the police.
Two days later, I had an appointment with an officer, who listened to my side and then spoke to the garage to get their side.
They wouldn't even confirm the registration, stating they had been told that the only person allowed to discuss anything regarding the car was their general manager.
In discussions with the general manager, they were sent an invoice, which detailed costs for an inspection of the car, and "environmental charge" and "tool manufacturing for gearbox support", plus hire costs and storage for nearly £700, stating all would need to be paid before they could release the car.
They then made an "offer" to fix the car for £650, including car hire, spinning the angle that it was my "legal responsibility" to keep my costs as low as possible trying to say "Pay our ransom, allow us to butcher your car, because we have a big well-funded legal department who, if it gets to court, will win!" My complaints to trading standards have been referred on three separate criminal breaches, just by the by.
Which leads me to the actual current issue.
In my opinion, there is nothing, even on the revised invoice, that they can hold the car over.
As far as I know, the right to exercise a lien arises when you have done work that has improved the car, that the customer requested, the charges for which are not under dispute, which have not been paid. It's for situations where someone says "thanks for fixing my car, I'll pay you on Tuesday, but take it now!" rather than situations anything like mine.
As far as I know, the following applies:
- Hire charges have to be agreed in terms and conditions up front, before the car is dropped off, not added in an ad hoc email when you are already preventing the release of the car.
-If the customer didn't request the work, and the garage can't "undo" it, they are to absorb the cost and release the car
-If the charges are under dispute, they can't hold the car
-If the costs are still accruing, they can't hold the car
-If the work done has not improved the car, they can't hold the car
-If the work has not been done by the garage holding the car, they can't hold the car
-If the charges they are awaiting are not to do with work done on the car, they can't hold the car
So on all fronts, they can't hold the car.
The other thing is that there is no specific right to get back money that was paid but not owed in British law, even if you write on an invoice that you are "paying under protest". Plus I don't have £700 just lying around, plus costs for recovery and repair! You only get it back if you can prove things like duress, threat of physical harm, etc.
I have disputed their outcome with their chosen dispute service, but this isn't enough. The police say that whilst the garage believe their entitled to hold the car, they can't recover it, and consumer helpline said all they can do is refer it to trading standards "without commitment", meaning they don't have to get back to me.
So the points that I need clarifying:
1. Is there anything I'm missing regarding their right to hold a lien on the vehicle?
2. Where is it written in law about the right to hold a lien on a vehicle?
3. How can I recover my car without paying a penny to these swindling con men?
Apologies for the long post, but anything anyone can advise to help would be appreciated!