/ Money, Motoring

Brief cases: complaining about major parts failing on new car

fixing car brakes

If you pay £21,000 for a brand new car, would you expect major parts to fail after three-and-a-half years and with only 13,000 miles on the clock?

Which? Legal member Robin Dadson came to us for help after important parts of his new car started to fail.

Robin paid around £21,000 for the then brand new Skoda Yeti Crossover in March 2013. By January 2016, when he had only driven it for 13,000 miles, he noticed the rear brake discs were corroded.

The original dealer was no longer trading, so he took the car back to its successor. Both the new dealer and Skoda said the problem was fair wear and tear. Skoda said the replacement wouldn’t be covered by warranty because of the time that had elapsed and it refused to take further action.

Ten months later, when Robin took the car in again for a check-up, the condition of the brakes was such that the dealer suggested Robin replace them.

It also highlighted a problem with the Haldex pump in the four-wheel drive. The costs of repairing the brake discs and pump was around £300 each.

At this stage, Robin came to our lawyers for advice.

Our advice on complaining about a faulty new car

We told Robin that if you pay £21,000 for a car, you could reasonably expect it not to have major parts failing after three-and-a-half years. So, although the original dealer had stopped trading, he could still complain to Skoda.

Robin got in touch with Skoda again, which rejected his claim. However, he persisted and, armed with our advice, took his complaint to a higher level.

He was then offered a ‘goodwill gesture’ of £300 in relation to the pump. Robin accepted this and reluctantly paid for the brake disc repairs himself. This solution compensated him for repairing one of the faulty parts and also took into account his having more than three years’ use of the car.

As Robin bought the car before 1 October 2015, his rights are under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (for contracts after that date it’s the Consumer Rights Act 2015), which says that goods must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If they’re not, the customer can ask for them to be repaired or replaced within a reasonable time.

It can be tricky to exercise these rights when there is a dispute between the customer and seller over whether the items failed due to wear and tear or due to a breach of contract. So, it’s often necessary to get expert opinions.

This article by the Which? Legal team originally appeared in the April 2017 edition of Which? magazine.

Have you ever had to complain directly to a manufacturer about a faulty new car? Were you successful in receiving compensation?

Comments
Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

My guess would be corrosion on discs after 3.5 years would not be a claim with merit. However, a major mechanical item like a pump should be expected to last – it should be durable. That means lasting what a reasonable person would expect given the price. This is covered in the SoGA and CRA as a contract requirement under “Quality”. It does not require the item to be faulty, simply that it should last. Not lasting might be down to a poor design or the use of poor quality components for example. That is my interpretation until I am told otherwise

Durability is an aspect of these Acts that I believe Which? should pay much more attention to. How many complaints in Convos have we had from contributors who had a product that failed just out of guarantee, or sooner than they should have expected? They need help to enforce this aspect of the Acts and stop retailers escaping their obligations..

Member
T. Read says:
20 April 2017

Low mileage could allow brake discs to corrode as surface rust which forms on them is not being scrubbed off by the brake pads. I’d just replaced my Honda Civic rear discs for the same reason, I then washed the car and noticed surface rust on my brand new discs!
I hate having the hassle of complaining about things but have come to the conclusion that if you keep quiet you get nowt, if you are prepared to kick up enough fuss and go higher with your grievence you have got every chance of success. My daughter has a 2010 Audi TT, during her last mot and sevice the local Audi dealer changed the brake fluid, on returning her car they reported a “hissy noise” which they thought “maybe” the brake servo leaking. They followed this up the next day by emailling an estimate of over £1700 to replace the servo unit. She told them that as the sevo was ok before they changed the brake fluid it must have been caused by them (a view supported by 3 local independent vehicle mechanics), they countered that it was just a coincidence and if she wanted the servo replaced it be at her expense. After she kicked up a fuss, the dealer contacted Audi and came back with a “goodwill” gesture as she was a customer, of 50%, which she rejected. The final outcome was that they replaced the servo FOC.
So kick up hell and keep at it but never get abusive.

Profile photo of martini97
Member

I had several electrical faults with my Renault Megane from the boot not shutting to failure to start .Eventually I was offered a discounted brand new scenic which had faults too so again another discounted upgrade which I am finally pleased with . My method was to write to the top with a diary of events and get every name of the people I spoke to .
Renault were reasonable but I felt that there were too many time consuming repairs . I used to visit the showroom desk at busy times and as their waiting area was open plan next to the new cars I was happy to speak to all that sat nearby . I think this helped

Member
Carla says:
5 June 2017

A British seller I bought from agreed to sell me 4 collectibles for £1000. I paid. He received the money and said he had sent the goods. Some days later he announced he had not sent the goods but had found a better offer for his items elsewhere and he’d sold my 4 items to another party. He offered me a paltry refund, minus his bank charges. I had, in the meantime, re-sold the 4 items, after believing they were mine, after paying and after the seller told me the goods were en route to me. Now I face letting down my buyers due to the seller’s actions. I wonder, does this Act cover cases like mine, and do I have any redress in law? Thank you.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Carla , the nearest I can get to your situation is the English Law of Contract under “Anticipatory Breach ” shows one parties intention to fail to perform or fulfill its contractual obligations . An anticipatory breach negates the counterparty responsibilities by demonstrating a party,s intention to breach to perform its requirements under the contract , by this action the counterparty may begin legal action . Vocal or written confirmation is not required and failure to perform in a timely manner can result in a breach so legal action can begin immediately . aka- anticipatory repudiation. You sold the item on the basis of a contractual agreement (phone call ) but the seller didn’t fulfill his side of the contract by sending you the items . As £1000 is mentioned I would see a contract lawyer.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I certainly think you should get legal advice, Carla. Try Citizens Advice in the first instance; they have a panel of lawyers who can advise in cases like yours.

Whereas it seems certain that there was a breach of contract it is difficult to know on the basis of what you have told us whether there was a deliberate intention on the seller’s part not to fulfill your purchase. In any case, you are entitled to a full refund without any deduction of bank charges. Any legal claim should be for complete recovery and your costs

You are also in a potential difficulty because you sold something which you did not have possession of and cannot now supply, albeit with the best of intentions. I don’t think you are at risk of action so long as you immediately refund the purchase money.

Dealing in goods at a distance is fraught with problems and paying sellers direct is hazardous. A solicitor should be able to advise you whether an action against the seller would be likely to succeed but be careful of the costs as the seller might be a ‘man of straw’ and even if you got a judgment against him or her it could be difficult and expensive to enforce it.

Member
Chris says:
16 June 2017

I’ve just purchased a boat from a large boat broker in the Uk. When I got it home I noticed the TV was missing but it was listed as included on the advert. They have a disclaimer saying the particulars maybe wrong but I’ve paid a large some of money and it’s not as described? I also have not received a receipt that was going to be posted to me. Any guidance please? Thank you

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

First of all Chris you have the legal right to require/insist on proof of purchase by being given a receipt of purchase with the date on it , what was sold to you and by whom , what if the police say it was stolen ? its your guarantee of an actual legal transaction taken place . If the disclaimer is part of the contract between you and the seller then you have a problem , yes its not as described but even businesses cover themselves by saying- the product sold by us might not conform to the actual advertised image of it and may vary in colour/shape,etc thats a disclaimer . IF the product was advertised as “brand new ” then you could argue it is not as the manufacturers original specifications by getting hold of the original spec from the builder . But if it is second hand then that disclaimer would be harder to legally argue over . Anybody spending a large sum of money should see the product before purchase , especially a boat/car etc. Having said all that there is nothing to prevent you taking legal action over it as it is not set in stone but you have to judge whether its financially and emotionally worth it. : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unfair_Contract_Terms_Act_1977

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Hi Chris – Can you tell us what the vendor said when you informed them the TV was missing? It’s difficult to make any useful comment without having more details. I hope you have had a survey done to establish if there are any problems with the boat itself, much in the same way that you would if you were buying a house.

As Duncan says, it’s a secondhand item, but you have protection under the Consumer Rights Act and the boat should conform with the description, including what has been provided in photographs.

Member
adrian says:
18 June 2017

I purchased a 2004 caravan from a dealer 0n 22 Feb,we have already had to have some things fixed under warranty,however,I have just found that the wood framework around one of the windows has rotted so much the wood is falling to pieces,I have spoken to the dealer already,but although he says he will look at it,he is saying the warranty has expired,As it takes wood a lot longer than 3 months to decay this much,the fault was obviously there when i bought it.am i right in thinking that because i have found this within 6 months,it is up to the dealer to repair/replace/or refund,?

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I would say so, Adrian – unless the defects were made clear at the time of purchase and if the condition was not clearly reflected in the price. Even 13-year old window frames should not have rotted away so badly unless the bodywork itself was in bad condition and water was getting in through the joints in the panelling. If the dealer did not take care to inspect the caravan properly before selling it then they should carry the risk.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I certainly think it is worth Adrian pursuing the case and hopefully getting a partial refund or a repair if the dealer does that sort of work. Bear in mind that there may have been no visible sign of leakage that could have been spotted either by Adrian or the dealer.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Yes, it could be borderline ‘fair wear & tear’. I would try to get a 10% price reduction and settle for 5% – that way both parties can feel that they have struck a bargain. If the dealer does repairs perhaps the cost of that could also be negotiated so that it is less than going to a different company but covers the costs and gives the dealer something as well. To provide some background for the negotiation it might be worth comparing the price paid for the caravan with the delivered cost of a similar model advertised as being in good condition.

The slightest aperture in a bodywork seam, barely visible and especially if on a roof joint, will allow considerable quantities of water in over time due to capillary action.

There is a gap in the market for ‘people’s negotiators’ who could help people settle issues like this before it becomes a dispute resolution exercise and without incurring significant expense or involving lawyers, mediators or claims managers. A 2.5% commission on the settlement value might be appropriate. It could be an interesting retirement occupation.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I support your suggestion, John. The alternative would be to accept a repair if offered. When buying secondhand goods it is important to check their condition carefully, taking expert advice if appropriate. Buying a car or a boat usually involves a survey and many pay to have cars checked before purchase.

It is important that disputes are resolved in a way that is fair to both parties.

Member
Jackie Dodds says:
25 June 2017

I would like to know the position of a holding deposit paid on a puppy should the buyer change their mind. I have always refunded, but I know someone who is refusing to do so. Can someone tell me the definite legal position on this please?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Jackie , a holding charge under English Contract Law is defined as a charge given by a client to a seller of goods, property, etc ,after the client has come to a decision to buy/ lease/rent/etc the said item(s) of their own free will . In the event of the client changing their mind the holding charge is non-refundable as it is taken that the customer has checked/viewed/etc the item(s), so the onus is on the customer to verify. Obviously this presents problems with remote sales but that is a different circumstance and remote selling laws apply. So ,yes you can keep the money , it is shown as an “intention to buy ” and is therefore a binding contract , if the contract is broken then the “hurt party ” has the right to compensation by retaining the money. They can legally say in court – I kept the item in good faith when I could have sold it many times .

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Jackie – I would advise any seller to make it clear at the outset whether a deposit is refundable or non-refundable, and, if it is refundable, in what circumstances that would apply and not apply. As Duncan has outlined, that is not legally necessary as the law presumes that deposits will be forfeit if the transaction is cancelled by the buyer, but making the selling policy clear reduces the scope for a dispute.

As a matter of trading goodwill I like your policy of always refunding – buying a pet is not the same as some other purchases where there are ample opportunities to inspect and assess the goods for suitability. Deposits are essential where a supplier might be required to carry out prior work or purchase materials in order to fulfil a sale [like buying a fitted carpet] but it is unlikely that you will have bred a puppy to a customer’s exact specification. The risk that an occasional sale might fall through goes with the territory in my opinion and although the seller will have to look after the puppy for a bit longer, and could suffer a price drop, that is the rub of the green. If I was looking to buy a puppy I would not wish to do so from a breeder who has commoditised their product like stock in a warehouse and has a mercenary approach to their trade; to start with I would question whether such a mean outlook is likely to be conducive to good breeding, feeding and welfare of their animals. So, if you can, I urge you to carry on returning deposits as it is better than people taking an unwanted puppy for fear of losing their deposit.