/ Motoring

Brief cases: a brand new car in need of repair

If you buy a new car that comes with a fault, make sure you know your rights from the start. Otherwise, you could find yourself spending more time than you want to get it fixed…

When Arthur and Sylvi spent more than £34,000 on a brand-new car, they never thought it would need repairs carried out as soon as they bought it.

But that is what the couple found when they went to pick up the new Kia Sorento in October 2013. At the dealership, they noticed the top of one of the rear seats hadn’t been fitted with enough padding and the seatbelt support bracket hadn’t been installed properly. They were assured that if they took the car that day, the problems would be fixed as soon as possible.

But when Arthur returned to collect it after the repairs were done, he found the seat in worse condition than before, with additional damage to the back of the driver’s seat. This was again reported to the dealership, which then dealt with other minor issues, but failed to solve the problem with the seat.

At this point the situation had been going on for nearly a year and the couple were soon due to leave for a driving holiday to France, so Arthur contacted Which? Legal for our advice on how to get the situation resolved.

Which? Legal advice

Our lawyers helped the couple with the wording of a letter to send to the dealership, to state their legal rights and have the issue with the car seat put right once and for all.

The couple returned from their holiday to find messages from the dealership offering to carry out the required work by replacing the defective seat.

This was done to the couple’s satisfaction in early October. The dealership also agreed to pay £200 compensation for the inconvenience that had been caused because of the ongoing problems and the couple accepted this offer.

What the law says on goods with defects

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) says that goods, including cars, must be of satisfactory quality. This means that they must be free from defects (even minor ones).

If the goods are defective, the seller could be in breach of contract and, if it is, the buyer has the right in certain circumstances to reject the goods, or to have them repaired or replaced by the seller.

If the goods are to be repaired or replaced, the seller will have the choice of which of these options to choose. The decision may come down to what is the most practical and cost-effective option.

Have you ever had a similar situation with a new car or any other product? Did the retailer accept responsibility for the fix?


I am surprised that this went on for over a year before a satisfactory remedy was completed. The impact suppression of the upper part of the seat back is an important part of a car’s safety system in mitigating injury [which is why the head restraints should always be adjusted correctly for each passenger]. Perhaps the dealership thought it was just a comfort or appearance thing. Thankfully we can deduce that the seat belt bracket was rectified promptly. I would expect a car costing £34K to be on-the-road ready in every respect. Where were the quality controls, either at the factory or in the dealership?


Cars are complex and it is hardly surprising that there is the odd teething problem. My present car has been faultless, but I have had a couple of problems with new cars. Fortunately, they have been sorted out very promptly.

It’s always worrying to read of people who suffer problems with new cars, especially when the vehicle has been taken back to the dealer numerous times regarding the same fault or a range of faults. Without the Which? Legal Service, Arthur and Sylvi might still have been fighting their battle and I hope the dealer apologised for the poor handling of the case.


I’ve had problems with my dealers. Every time I get my car fixed by them something else goes wrong soon after. My biggest upset was only this month. I paid for a new turbo, when I went to collect the car it wouldnt start. They told me that I should leave it with them overnight so as it can get a good charge. I went to collect my car again, drove it half way down the road and I had to turn back as it was making an awful noise and a strong burning smell was coming into the car. The mechanic fitted the pump back on and also had to replaced my clips for the battery cover as they were broken. This happened on the 9th Feb 2015. Coming back from Leicester 22 March 2015 my car felt sluggish. I pulled into the nearest station and called the AA. The gentleman tested the car and said its the Turbo. I telephoned the dealers and now they are saying that my fuel pump had caused the Turbo to go. That can’t be right, can it? Someone help me please


If Arthur and Sylvi noticed such visible faults as a sub-standard seat and a wrongly-fitted seat belt bracket then it should have been spotted at the factory – inadequate quality control, by the sound of it – and at the dealers if they had done their pre-sale inspection properly. Worse was not to rectify the problem properly and promptly.
Sale of Goods Act to their rescue, apparently.


It would be a great help if Peter Shaw and his colleagues could demonstrate how the Which? Legal service could help members who have had a problem with a retailer failing to comply with their obligations under the Sale of Goods Act. A suitable example might be a washing machine that has failed two or three years after the one year manufacturer’s guarantee has expired and there has been no abuse or excessive use.

This could encourage members to use Which? Legal and give them confidence to tackle retailers without need for support.

Many of our discussions on Which? Conversation could benefit from input from those who understand legal issues.


Practical cases naming the actual machine, the shop , not necessarily the persons name [ – some of us are shy] , and the ins and outs, result, would make this a more real exercise. Which? can seem to distancig from problems.


I have suggested elsewhere Which? producing a comprehensive guide to how to use the Sale of Goods Act for all and, like the Pensions Guide, advertise it on TV. Consumer protection is, in my view, a more important role for Which?

This encouragement for the consumer might also cause delinquent retailers to reconsider their obligations.


Consumer protection was what encouraged me to subscribe to Which? The first campaign that I got involved with was the extended warranty racket, where retailers would attempt to scare customers into buying expensive warranties that offer poor value for money. Many people learned about that and I’m sure that it helped to bring down the price of extended warranties.