/ Motoring

Brief cases: member refunded for problematic car battery

It’s frustrating when you’re trying to resolve a problem that concerns more than one company. We help a member get his money back after his car battery stopped working and both the retailer and the car dealership refused to help.

Which? Legal member John Smith bought a new car battery from Kwikfit in July 2017. A staff member said it would be suitable for his Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 CDI.

A few weeks after fitting the battery, John had trouble starting the car on a couple of occasions, and then it wouldn’t start at all. Following a repair by a main dealership, he was told that the battery would not hold a full charge and that it needed replacing.

However, Kwikfit said it couldn’t give him a refund as it hadn’t checked the battery. The dealership suggested that it could only replace the battery if it was faulty.

John pointed out that it might not be faulty, but could just be the wrong battery for his particular car. He also explained that he’d had to buy a new battery from the main dealership just to get the car to run. At this point, he contacted us for advice.

Our advice

We advised John to make a formal complaint to Kwikfit and gave him a letter template setting out the relevant law, the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Using the template, John asserted that the dealer had clearly failed in its legal obligations on multiple grounds and was in breach of contract. He returned to Kwikfit with a printed copy of this letter and, after a debate with staff, he got a full refund.

The law

Consumer contracts are governed by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (if entered into on or after 1 October 2015) or the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (if entered into before then).

These make it an implied term that traders will supply goods that are of satisfactory quality and fit for the specified purpose, if that purpose is made clear to the retailer at the time of purchase.

If the retailer doesn’t comply, you have the right to request a repair or replacement, which the retailer must provide within a reasonable time, without causing significant inconvenience, and bearing the costs itself.

The Act also requires service providers to carry out their service with reasonable skill and care. If they don’t, you have the right to request a ‘repeat performance’ of the service from the trader, which it must do at no extra cost.

This article by the Which? Legal team originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of Which? magazine.

Have you ever been stuck between two companies with a problem that neither of them wants to help you with? Did you make any formal complaints and did you manage to get the problem resolved?


I’m not clear about the real problem here. A replacement battery should be the type specified for the car model – for a 12v battery this would be size, terminals, capacity and cold starting performance perhaps. However, an undersize battery, for example, could still work. So was this battery not of the correct specification or was it just faulty – unable to hold a charge maybe?

I am confused too. As with other ‘Brief cases’ we are not always given enough information to understand the case. We have not been told whether the battery was substandard, or was not being charged properly in the vehicle, or if it was being drained when the vehicle was standing (sometimes caused by a faulty alternator).

Malcolm – Manufacturers often specify more than one possible battery suitable for their vehicles and what is fitted may depend on whether the car is sold for use in a cold climate. A responsible company should not fit one with a lower CCA rating than the one it replaces without agreement from the customer.

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Hello, I’ll find out if we have the details as to what the fault with the battery was, however, I believe that the issue is really that the car had a replacement battery fitted which failed within a matter of weeks and needed replacing as it couldn’t hold a charge.

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Thanks Lauren. Even the way we are presented with information is confusing. “Following a repair by a main dealership, he was told that the battery would not hold a full charge and that it needed replacing.” We don’t know whether John was told this by the main dealer or by Kwikfit.

Hi both, what happened was John had gone to Kwikfit and explained what car he needed the battery for where a member of staff there selected the battery as being suitable for his requirements and he purchased it on this basis. It subsequently turned out that the battery was not suitable for the vehicle and as such the car failed to start. This was diagnosed by another garage and the matter was resolved when a new battery purchased from the second garage was put into the vehicle.

@ldeitz, thanks, but I still don’t understand the problem. Was the original battery faulty or just incapable of delivering the correct current for starting?

Hi Malcolm, I believe it was the incorrect battery for the vehicle. This was then confirmed by the second garage.

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Thanks Lauren. Perhaps the company fitted the diesel car with a smaller one intended for one with a petrol engine.

Perhaps we are missing the point of the article. The idea seems to be that joining Which? Legal is necessary to solve problems.

The detail of the case are not therefore relevant and of course the lack of technical sense would be missed anyway by many. Seems a shame that the opportunity, given the space here, for a discussion on car batteries / brands / longevity / Kwikfit in general/ has been missed.

In case you wondered some general stuff from the US consumer body:

There have been numerous ‘Brief cases’ Convos, the recent ones being authored by “Which? Legal”. I have never needed to use the service but these Convos have given me an idea of what I might seek help with.

In a recent debate about Convos delving into technical aspects, no-one claimed to be against this and some of us were very strongly in favour. I dare say we could use this Convo to discuss brands, longevity, etc.

We know that Citizens Advice Bureaux are charities that offer this advice for free. I am happy to accept that some people wish for immediate personal contact and are prepared to pay for it.

The problem with using Conversation for detailed discussions is that it all disappears dow a well. In theory we could have a discussion here and take the distilled wisdom to the Member Community but as that also is not searchable we still could have a fine article that cannot easily be found.

Incidentally on batteries the 30Kv Leaf [Nissan] is losing capacity at an alarming rate according to the Leaf owners in NZ. Apparently 15% per month compared to low single digits % for the previous 24Kv version.

Looks like a possible cause for the Consumers’ Association and its magazine Which? to help UK victims.

@dieseltaylor, you have I think in the past suggested a “WikiWhich?” where all the useful information and links that contributors provide could be collected for posterity. It is such a waste to see useful contributions disappear in a matter of days, if not hours, in the hidden pages of a Convo.

I see that some will be contacted to give their views on Which? Convos. A time to collect thoughts and make them known.