/ Motoring

Legal advice: missing car features set right

If a car doesn’t include features that should have been included as standard then it isn’t as described. Here’s how we helped a member get a replacement.

Which? Legal member John received a new Volkswagen Golf MK8 from a dealer, but the car didn’t include some features that should have been included as standard. John had viewed the features on the Volkswagen website’s online brochure and discussed them with the dealership’s sales representative.

He was told an exact vehicle match had been found for a purchase price of £29,650. However, once the car had been delivered, John had difficulty identifying some of the features that were in the Volkswagen online brochure.

He contacted Volkswagen UK, and then the dealer, and was advised that the features were not available at the trim level he’d chosen as they had been temporarily paused in production due to technical issues, and could not be retrospectively added post-production.

Unsure of his rights, John sought advice from us. 

Matching the description

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says goods must match their description. In failing to provide John with a car matching the description in the online brochure and discussed with its representative, the dealer was in breach of contract.

As John had taken delivery of the vehicle shortly before contacting us, he was still within the first 30 days of delivery and could exercise his short-term right to reject the goods and obtain a refund.

We advised John of his rights, which were to either reject the car and seek a refund or ask the dealership to provide a replacement. On discussing his right to a legal remedy with the dealership, John decided to allow a replacement car with all his requested features to be provided, as this was preferable for him.

John paid an additional £500 towards the replacement vehicle to ensure its swift arrival and reflect the newer registration.

Have you ever exercised your right to reject when a product hasn’t been as described?

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It is disappointing that the dealer did not have the courtesy to discuss the change in specification prior to delivery. As a result they now have a car that can no longer be described as new and have probably lost their profit on the sale.

When I have bought a new car I have been able to inspect and drive it, so I have not been disappointed. The possibility of being able to get my money back with a little help from Which? Legal makes buying online a more viable option.

What a curious case.

Who’d have thought that Volkswagen would lie and cheat customers?

The Emissions Scandle was a good clue!

I once bought a new car and asked the salesman some odd questions, one of which being the interval for changing the timing belt. With some models it can be an expensive job. I was given a figure of 80k miles and subsequently confirmed this figure.

Within a year or two of owning the car I learned that the interval had been reduced to 40k miles. I followed the new advice and the job proved less expensive than I had feared, but I wonder if I could have made a successful claim for part or all of the cost because the manufacturer had doubled the frequency of the recommended belt change.

I had a similar problem with my Alfa Romeo when bought new back in 1998.

Leather trim, alloys, seat and a few other features I can’t remember now, were part of a ‘pack’. There were several seat options and as it was going to take around 8 months to get the car, the dealer was going to let me know when he had some examples in the showroom.

I periodically contacted him but nothing had come in until it was suddenly too late and my car was en route from Italy. Furious was an understatement.

I actually liked the seats it came with so decided not to change them, but for the rest of the items, the dealer insisted I would have to pay for each item separately that would cost nearly twice the cost of the ‘pack’ that would have included new seats.

After contacting Alfa and getting UK sales management involved, the pack (minus seats) was installed at a very reasonable cost with some items thrown in free.

It would have to have been an Alfa I suppose!

It’s nice to get a bespoke car, but I didn’t like any of the wheel options when we bought a new Audi some years ago and the ones we chose [the plainest available] proved to be the devil to clean. There was something missing from our spec on delivery that had to be retro-fitted but I cannot recall what it was now.

It frustrates me that full size spare wheels are no longer included. Seems dangerous if on a long journey with little access to garages. Increases dependency on emergency services ie breakdown as I wouldn’t have ability to use their silly tyre kit. Manufacturers are Penny pinching at customers expense

Yes, many don’t even have a well for the wheel. But my Lexus 600h has five identical wheels and a reasonable tool kit. Very traditional but quite old (11 years) but when I looked at a new one in the showroom and turned it down because it didn’t have a proper spare the salesman was astonished!

Runflats are a partial solution but they have limited range when punctured, are not usually repairable and fairly expensive. My estate car came with runflats and no spare of course so I bought a matching wheel and tyre and keep it in the back. I have used it once. It gets swapped onto the car when the tyres are worn so partly pays for itself.

To get the issue into perspective it would be interesting to know what the incidence of punctures is these days; my impression is they are quite rare but that might be an incorrect perception. I wonder if anyone invented self-sealing tyres – war usually prompts such innovations, like self-sealing fuel tanks.

There are few cars with full-size spare wheels these days but it is still possible to buy ones with space-saver wheels. When I chose my present car I said to the salesman that I would not consider a car without a spare wheel. After discussion about different models he encouraged me to buy a model that stopped the engine in traffic. Fortunately I asked if it came with a spare wheel and no it did not, even though one without the stop-start feature did.

I understand that if you specify a requirement then that becomes part of the contract and if the product does not meet the specification you would have had protection under the Consumer Rights Act, though it might be useful to have evidence of your requirements in writing.

Surely this is a Health & Safety issue! Without a Spare you are vulnerable. You may need Breakdown Services during Bank Holidays or Getaway periods, or on The Continent, when these services are stretched leaving you & your passengers exposed & stranded. Who’s ever had a puncture at a convienient time at a convienient location away from home? What does Which? think about inherent danger within vehicles without Spare Wheels?

I purchased a Fiat Panda 4 x 4 described in all advertising as the ‘smallest 5 seater’ but then found out that the fifth seat seatbelt had been charged for as ‘an extra’.
I pointed out that to be a road legal 5 seater a seat belt had to be fitted to all seats and therefore the fifth belt should have been included as standard, in order for their description to be correct, otherwise it was a four seater.
After speaking with Fiat UK and the dealer the extra I’d been charged was refunded.

Good result, John.

I wonder how often the dealers get away with charging extra in those circumstances.

Now John is trying to fit five people in a Fiat Panda.

I have been a member of Legal Which for quite a few years now and consider it money well spent. One never knows when you might need help on legal matters.
With the help of Which Legal I was able to replace a new MB E Class Convertible (faulty roof mechanism). The saga lasted about six weeks from my wife obtaining the newly delivered car and agreement by MB to replace the car to exactly the same specification including taking a later delivery date to obtain the next plate registration. All costs involved were met by MB including new loan cars for the duration of inconvenience.
I also kept a daily diary of all events associated with the faulty vehicle which proved invaluable in providing clear and coherent evidence to the very poor way the original MB supplying dealership dealt with my wife and I. This evidence was sent to MB Stuttgart, Germany, the MD MB, Uk and the Principal of the supplying dealership. The change in customer service towards us changed overnight. Such a shame it took so long to sort. I would certainly recommend keeping a diary of some sort when making purchases large or small as it helps to clarify such a variety of situations and especially when problems arise.

Thanks Legal Which for the help.

I have on order a Renault Captur. It is the top of the range model and part of the specification was automatic folding door mirrors. Since my order was placed this has now been removed from the specification due to the worldwide microchip shortage apparently. What rights do I have as I am now getting something without what would have been several hundred pounds to add as an option in a lower spec model?

Dave — You have the right to cancel your order because the vehicle when delivered will no longer be as described at the time you placed your order.

Presumably the company are not proposing to charge you the same original price for the reduced specification, but even if they are reducing the price they cannot force you to proceed with the purchase as they have made a material change in the contract and it no longer meets your requirements.

Thank you. I would prefer not to cancel as I got a good deal at the time which I doubt I can match elsewhere plus I don’t really want another six month wait. However it sounds like I have good grounds to ask for a reduction in price.

Dave — I think that is a pragmatic way forward whereby you get the car you want, albeit without a desirable but non-essential feature, and the dealership gets the sale. There’s something in it for both sides if both sides act reasonably.

Dave, when I bought my new car I did not opt to pay for automatic folding mirrors and have never missed the feature. I think sticking with the car and getting a price reduction is a good strategy.
Some mirrors turn down when reversing to show the kerb; that is, I think, a useful feature (if you don’t have cameras).

Dave – You can obviously negotiate the price with the dealer but please don’t cancel without being sure that you can buy the car you want elsewhere at a sensible price. There is a waiting time of more than six months for some models and even some secondhand cars are in short supply.

Thanks everybody. Yes I wouldn’t cancel the order now as I have waited some time and did a lot of research that this was the hybrid model I wanted. I might not tell them that but even if I didn’t get some compensation for the mirrors I would probably still go ahead – no point in spiting your nose to cut your face as my mum used to say!

I did a quick Internet search and came up with this:

Renault invitera les clients à apporter leur voiture en atelier une fois la pièce disponible afin que que[sic] le dispositif et sa commande soient installés.

Basically, Renault are shipping the models concerned without folding mirrors to avoid delays to delivery schedules, but will invite customers to have them retro-fitted once the parts are available again.

Obviously, get your UK dealer to confirm this is the case in writing, but it is better that a delay and a potential take-it-or-leave it price increase on the horizon due to inflation.