/ 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?

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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..

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.