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@Motor_Ombudsman - The Motor Ombudsman and their advice to purchasers of faulty cars

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If you bought your car after 01 October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies. This means that, when you buy the vehicle, it has to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.


Within the first 30 days, if there’s a problem that means your car doesn’t meet these standards, it develops a serious fault or you find that it isn’t what was advertised to you, you can raise this with the seller and ask for your money back. In this instance, you will be entitled to a full refund.



This statement from the motor ombudsman is worrying because it can easily be misinterpreted.
The motor ombudsman is quite right to say that there are rights if the car doesn't meet the standards imposed by the Consumer Rights Act. However, whether the fault is serious or not is irrelevant. The important thing is that the car is not of satisfactory quality. Even if the fault is minor, it is clear from the Consumer Rights Act that even minor defects may be capable of rendering an item as not of satisfactory quality.
Of course it should be borne in mind that satisfactory quality is not a fixed idea. Satisfactory quality depends on all the circumstances including the age of the item, the type of item, the price paid, and any claims made about it when it was sold.
As an example, if you buy a new car then if the tyres on it are part worn, the car would not be a satisfactory quality. Your reasonable expectation is that the car will come with new tyres.
On the other hand, if you buy a car with 50,000 miles on the clock, then even though the tyres are part worn, the quality of the car overall is still likely to be satisfactory.
Every purchase, every item has to be assessed on its own facts.
On the consumer action forum, we have come across many dealers who have sold second-hand cars and who have tried to say that a defect which has manifested itself within the first 30 days (as envisaged by the Act) is not serious enough.
The seriousness of the defect is not the test of "satisfactory quality".

Also, "satisfactory quality" can probably change as the purchaser gets more use out of the item. If you buy used car and one of the rear lights doesn't work, then this would not be satisfactory quality. If one of the lights packs up within, say, 10,000 miles then this might be normal wear and tear and would start suggest that the car was in terms of its quality.
On the other hand, the gearbox failed within 10,000 miles, then a reasonable assumption would be that the car was probably not of satisfactory quality because the gearbox had not lasted for a reasonable period of time.




If you report the problem outside of the first 30 days, you have to give the selling dealership or garage one opportunity to repair or replace your car, with repair normally being the best option.


The motor ombudsman is wrong. You do not have the option to require a replacement of your vehicle if a defect manifests itself within the first six months (after expiry 30 days). The garage is entitled to a single attempt attempt to repair. If the repair fails or if the garage refuses to repair, then you have the right to reject the vehicle. You do not have to accept a replacement. You can simply reject it as if the fault had occurred within the first 30 days.
The motor ombudsman is wrong to say that a repair is normally best option. There is no other option. Under the provisions of the right to reject within the first six months, a repair is the only option. (This is subject to the rules of fundamental breach explained below).

Other options come into play only if the single repair has been attempted and failed – or there has been a refusal to carry out the single repair.



It’s worth bearing in mind that, if the issue occurs in the first six months after buying the car, it’s up to the selling dealership or garage to prove that it was of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described when they sold it to you. However, if you want to reject your car for a full refund within the first 30 days, or the problem happens six months or more after you bought the vehicle, you – the consumer, needs to be able to prove that the car was not of satisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described when you bought it. This will normally be through either a diagnosis from a garage or dealership, or an independent technical report. You can find more information about independent technical reports here.


This is complete nonsense. It's not clear whether the motor ombudsman has made an inadvertent error or they really believe what they have written here but whatever they were smoking at the time must have been pretty good stuff..
The motor ombudsman has effectively suggested that if you want to reject your car within the first 30 days, then you – the purchaser must prove the existence of the fault at the point of sale. According to the motor ombudsman however if you wait until after the first six months have expired then you must also prove the existence of the fault.
What happens between month two and month six of ownership is completely unclear. The Motor Ombudsman says  "if the issue occurs in the first six months after buying the car, it’s up to the selling dealership or garage to prove that it was of satisfactory quality...". The inference from what the ombudsman has written is that during those months, is that it is assumed that the fault always existed - but before then, it is assumed that the fault didn't exist at all.
Now you see it, now you don't, now you do.
Shome mishtake here shurely....



What do I do if I have bought a faulty vehicle?

You may wish to make a claim under your manufacturer’s warranty or by persuing the claim in accordance with your legal rights.

Claiming under the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty

If the fault with the vehicle is due to poor workmanship or parts used during the build process, you may be able to make a claim under your manufacturer’s warranty. To do this, you will need to follow the process as set out in the terms and conditions of your policy.

Making a claim using your consumer rights

If you wish to make a complaint about the fault under your consumer rights, then you have up to six years from when you bought the car to contact the seller to raise the issue.

If the fault was present at the point of sale, you may be able to make a claim against your seller. Please note that this protection does not include faults which a reasonable person would have identified at the point of sale.

In order to resolve the issue, you should firstly raise your concern with your seller directly, ideally by submitting a formal complaint to the business in line with their complaints procedures.

If you are unhappy with the final response of the business, or more than eight weeks has passed since raising the complaint with them, you may escalate the complaint to The Motor Ombudsman for further investigation.






Claiming under the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty

(Apart from the spelling errer [hint]), this is generally very poor quality advice anyway.

First of all, the advice seems to assume that you are dealing with a new car. In fact the entire website of the Motor Ombudsman seems to be slanted towards problems associated with the purchase of new cars.
This is very unfortunate because the majority of problems are encountered with purchases of second-hand cars. That is the part of the car trade which is less reputable and needs greater supervision – and indeed regulation. Yet this is to be neglected by the Motor Ombudsman.
It's unhelpful to purchasers of second-hand vehicles that this is not made clear on the Motor Ombudsman's website is the whole thing raises false hopes.

Even with a new car, you should not bother about any warranty. It is the responsibility of the seller. It is the seller who has a commercial relationship with the manufacturer and it's up to them to sort out their own problems together. It's nothing to do with you and you shouldn't have to be bothered with it. The clear responsibility to you is with the seller. This is what you pay for.
You should be aware that warranties generally speaking do very little more than to duplicate your statutory rights – often with significant exceptions – and they often have the effect of diverting your attention from your much more powerful statutory rights and also warranties often give the impression to consumers that once the warranty period has expired, there are no more rights in the matter.

Making a claim using your consumer rights

It is correct that under the law of contract you have up to 6 years to bring an action. However, it is very inadvisable to leave it this long. And one should take action as early as possible.
The Motor Ombudsman seems to be pointing to a "fault" which was present at point of sale. However, although it would be handy to identify this, the Consumer Rights Act requires the vehicle is of satisfactory quality and remains that way for a reasonable period of time.
This means that depending on the price and the age of the vehicle et cetera if there is a catastrophic gearbox failure needing a £3000 replacement after, say, two years of your ownership on a vehicle of, say, only 40,000 miles and for which you paid – will say, £25,000, then it would be a pretty safe bet that a court would agree with you that the car had not remained in a satisfactory condition for a reasonable period of time at the point that the gearbox broke down.
So from this point of view, the Motor Ombudsman is completely wrong. There doesn't need to be an identifiable fault which existed at the point of sale. The test is whether the vehicle lasted the distance, taking into consideration all of the circumstances of the purchase.

"Satisfactory quality" means that you need to look at the fault – whether it is mechanical, electrical, understand its seriousness, cost to repair, expected life expectancy of the faulty item in terms of age and mileage – et cetera in the context of the entire vehicle and its purchase including make, model, price, mileage, age – and any other circumstances of the sale and the ownership to date of the vehicle.

The Motor Ombudsman is correct to say that if there were faults which would be identifiable by a reasonable person at the point-of-sale, then these would not invalidate the purchase anyway. However, the Motor Ombudsman does not point out that this "reasonable person" can be taken as somebody with not even the slightest knowledge or understanding of motor cars.
So for instance, if you bought a vehicle and it was clear that the windscreen was broken, then you wouldn't be able to complain. On the other hand, if the electric windows when working or the central locking wasn't working, then you wouldn't be expected to know this unless you had gone to the trouble of checking them out.
But there is no duty upon you to carry out that kind of inspection. If you did not carry out an inspection of the vehicle then as far as you are concerned, you purchase the car free of defects. If you did carry out an inspection of the vehicle – for instance, check it for dents, you would not be deemed to have accepted any other faults which you did not check for.


(On a side note, a broken windscreen would probably mean that the car was not in roadworthy condition when it was sold to you so this would be an illegal sale anyway)

The Motor Ombudsman says that if there is an issue then you should take it up the dealer using their normal complaints procedure. This is a fairly sensible suggestion – but it's not obligatory. You could simply write a letter of complaint and that would be good enough. And of course, the dealer may not have a reasonable complaints procedure. They may insist that you bring your complaint within a certain number of days. This would not be a lawful requirement. They may insist that once you raise a complaint, that they have eight weeks to give you a response. Once again, you would not be bound by this and in fact eight weeks is far too long.

In fact the Motor Ombudsman actually suggests that customers must wait for up to 8 weeks for a dealer to address the problem. Not only is this not binding on anybody. It is unreasonable and frankly there is no reason why any customer should wait than seven days for a definitive answer and a further seven days for a repair to be completed – if that's the way the complaint goes.
In the event that there is a rejection, then the whole thing should be sorted out and a refund given within 14 days.

Some Conclusions

  • The Motor Ombudsman scheme and website is slanted towards the purchases of new cars.
  • The information given on the Motor Ombudsman website is either completely wrong – or sufficiently misleading that innocent consumers are either deprived of their rights or directed to follow a course of action which is not in their best interests.
  • The Motor Ombudsman scheme is a subscriber scheme. In other words it is not a scheme which is regulated by statute and car dealers are not obliged to belong to it. I suppose it is reasonable to say that the car dealers which do subscribe to the Motor Ombudsman scheme tend to be the larger, authorised and more reputable dealers.
  • Unfortunately, the majority of dealers who do supply defective vehicles and who cause the majority of problems to innocent victims will not be subscribers to the Motor Ombudsman scheme.
  • By and large, even with new vehicles, the Motor Ombudsman scheme is relatively unsatisfactory not so much because of its inaccurate information but particularly because it sets out an eight week response time before one can take further action.
  • It is probably reasonable to say that even a "reputable" dealer who forces a customer to wait eight weeks for a reasonable outcome to their problem, should no longer be regarded as "reputable".
  • A County Court claim requires that only two weeks notice is given to the dealer. Of course the Motor Ombudsman scheme is free to the customer and there is no risk of costs if their decision does not favour the complainant.
  • The Motor Ombudsman scheme is likely to be confused by ordinary customers who will assume that it has the same level of authority as the Financial Ombudsman Service. Of course this is not so.
  • There is no duty on you to inspect car and actually you might be safer not inspecting it at all because you are then entitled to expect that it is free of defects and so any defect which materialises after the purchase may well become a breach of contract.
  • If a dealer draws your attention to some faults before you enter the contract, then you are deemed to have accepted those faults and you can't complain about them later on.


A brief note on fundamental breach of contract

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 simply adds to and enhances the basic contractual rights that everybody enjoys any time they enter into any contract for any item with a trader.
This means, the although you may want to assert your rights under the 2015 Act, you do not lose your basic contractual rights.
Even after the expiry of the initial 30 days, you still retain your right to treat the contract as end it if the defect in the car is so serious that it has effectively deprived you of the entire benefit of the contract.
There is nothing in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which indicates that it is intended to supplant or replace any part of the existing law of contract.

This means that if you have, for instance, a catastrophic engine failure or gearbox failure which clearly puts the car completely out of action so that it cannot be driven then it can be reasonable to say that you have been deprived of the benefit of the contract. This would be a fundamental breach by the seller and this would entitle you to accept the breach from the seller and treat the contract is terminated.

Of course it would be easier to follow the route set out in the 2015 Act. Not least because it is difficult enough to find traders who understand the effect of the 2015 Act and who are prepared to honour their obligations under it.
Trying to find dealers who understand the principle of fundamental breach is probably well-nigh impossible.
However, the right remains and you can apply it if you want.
Certainly, if you have a catastrophic failure after six months, then you are entitled to reject the contract. You do not have to accept a repair. You can treat the contract is terminated as a result of the fundamental breach.

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