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Legal advice: towbar fitting fail gets technical

Do you know your rights when work on your vehicle take a turn for the worst? Here’s how we helped a member resolve their issue.

In April, Which? member Christopher  approached a garage to fit a towbar on his Seat Ateca. Upon collecting his car, he was informed that some of its electronic features – such as cruise control – had been deactivated during the fitting.

Christopher was told he would need to take his car to a Seat dealer to have it re-coded, at his own expense. When he contacted Seat, he was told a new towbar must be fitted at a cost of £1,600. At this point, Christopher contacted Which? Legal for advice.

Reasonable care and skill

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, services must be performed with ‘reasonable care and skill’. As the garage was responsible for the issue with Christopher’s vehicle, its service did not meet this standard, and it was therefore in breach of contract.

The first legal remedy for breach of contract is ‘repeat performance’: giving the service provider a chance to rectify the issue at no cost to the customer.

We advised Christopher to send a letter to the garage outlining his entitlement to a free ‘repeat performance’. It offered to make another repair attempt and managed to fix the vehicle with no extra charge to Christopher.

The garage said it was unable to code the vehicle during the original booking due to an unknown response from the car and coding program. It amended the cost and referred the customer to a Seat dealer.

When the dealer couldn’t complete the job, the garage obtained a similar vehicle to test the issue and, upon rebooking, could fix the fault.

Have a legal question of your own?

Which? Legal offers affordable legal advice, over the phone and by email to help you tackle your problem or issue.  

The team of legal advisers will give you tailored information and advice on your rights and next steps, so you can handle your issue confidently.  

Which? Legal can help on a range of topics, from faulty goods and car purchase issues to landlord and tenancy issues, plus much more.

To find out how the team can help you, call Which? Legal on 0117 405 5695 or visit Which? Legal.


I hope Christopher received a written apology from his garage.

Cars have become very complex and what seems to be a simple job can be very difficult, even for main dealers. My trusted garage spent a couple of hours trying to find out why the horns were not working but said it would have to go to a specialist. Fair enough, but he refused any payment for his time, which did not seem right. The main dealer had the car for two days before the fault was fixed, but fortunately did not charge much for the job.

A lot of garages, main dealers included, use the services of specialist companies to fit towbars and associated electrics. They tend to have a much better knowledge about vehicle towing electrics than a dealership where they only fit towbars occasionally.