/ Motoring

Legal advice: seller takes back promise to refund faulty car

Ever been promised a refund, only to have the seller go back on their word? Here’s how we were able to use section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 to help.

A Which? Legal member bought an Audi TT last April from a car dealership in London for £3,000.

In the first week of having the car, the member noticed a fault with its alarm system. The dealership agreed to repair the fault, but the problem didn’t go away.

The member agreed to part exchange the faulty car for a Porsche Boxster, and paid an additional £2,000 for the car with a credit card. They soon learned that this car was also faulty.

Initially, the dealership tried to repair the fault, but in August the power steering failed, resulting in smoke coming out of the vehicle.

At first the manager of the dealership offered a refund, but then went back on the promise.

Misrepresentation by a retailer

As the dealer was unreasonable, we advised the member that it was best to bring a claim under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

Under this act the credit card company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by a retailer.

Initially, this caused problems as the Audi TT was bought using a debit card. But after clarifying that the Porsche was partly paid for using a credit card, the member was credited back the full purchase price by the credit card provider.

Breaches of contract

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 both cars would have had to be of ‘satisfactory quality’. Otherwise, a refund would be owed.

In this case, the average consumer can expect a higher standard from cars which are considered to be ‘more luxurious’, so the dealership was in breach of its contract.

On top of that, as the dealer was only offering a refund on the basis that the car was faulty, this could be considered an admission of liability.

Have you ever had a refund promise broken by a seller? If so, did you know about your rights under the Consumer Credit Act 1974?

Let us know what happened in the comments.

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Comments

“In this case, the average consumer can expect a higher standard from cars which are considered to be ‘more luxurious’, so the dealership was in breach of its contract.”

Maybe when new, but buying an expensive model for a few thousand pounds is very risky. I hope that the credit card company manages to recover the money from the dealer and that the Which? member chooses a cheaper model of secondhand car that is more likely to be a worthwhile purchase.

It’s fascinating to read these Which? Legal cases.

I agree. A more expensive car when new (not necessarily “luxurious” ) should better built with higher quality components. However, by the time it has got down to only 5 or 10% of its original price it will have worn substantially and be just as prone to failure as many other old cars, but more expensive to repair. I think buyers should be savvy enough to know the risk they take.

The garage has, I believe, to honour a 3 month warranty. Presumably it may be possible to sell a cheap car “as seen” with no warranty.

Was the seller really a dealership, or just a used car dealer? A ‘dealership’ implies being tied into the franchise of a specific manufacturer [or a small number of manufacturers] supporting and promoting the brand(s) and imposing certain quality standards.

Whereas I agree with Wavechange’s and Malcolm’s comments about the implications of buying well-depreciated vehicles and their likely condition, I would still expect a full dealership to offer an above-average standard of condition and performance with a high spec marque. Proper testing by the ‘dealership’ before marketing the vehicles should have revealed the faults and they should have been fixed before selling. I accept that that would no doubt be uneconomic in these cases – because they were already at their floor price and any further expenditure would be wasted – but I question whether a manufacturer-supported and warranty-backed outlet should be exposing such vehicles for sale in that condition.

I am glad the buyer received a full refund from their credit card issuer and I echo Wavechange’s hope that they got their money back from the merchant. It would be good if they also reviewed the dealer’s trading practices to prevent more such occurrences.

I suspect it was from an Arthur Daly rather than an Audi outlet. In my experience franchised dealerships rarely deal in cars over 3 years old. I believe older trade-ins are despatched to small dealers or auctions.

I agree, Malcolm, although I have noticed that in our area some dealerships for high-end motors do occasionally offer exceptional, almost classic, cars in very good condition both inside the saloon and under the bonnet. There does seem to be a market for these among the affluent retired. There seem to be very few Arthur Daley’s left these days and the internet has replaced the used car lot with your next car delivered in a van [Cazoo]. There are still quite a few big used-car sites on the ring roads with their flags flying and the hatches hanging open in the air [why?] but I have no idea how good they are for fair trading and customer service .

With so many used cars up for sale, this ought to be a buyers’ market. However that probably also means that used cars businesses striving to give competitive prices and yet still make a profit will have to pare the costs of inspection and servicing right back to the bone.

These days, I think most cars are very reliable, but, for a low risk purchase, it think it still generally pays to do your homework and then look for a nice low mileage example.

You also need to be careful with your choice of car servicing outlets. I used to have a nice Fiesta, that was ruined by Halfords, after they had talked me into letting them change its water pump, as pre-emptive maintenance.

If a water pump is driven by the timing belt it can be worth changing the water pump when the belt is replaced because if the pump seizes it can wreck the engine.

Indeed but I would recommend that only competent mechanics should be allowed to tackle such work. In my case, I think the muppets at Halfords warped my rocker box cover and caused a persistent oil leak.

Off-topic but relevant to anyone buying a used car is worth asking when the timing belt was changed and having some written evidence of this. Manufacturers provide recommendations for how often this should be done and the year/mileage (whichever comes first) interval may be reduced after the model was introduced. What was once a straightforward job that any competent DIY enthusiast could do has become more difficult because engine bays have become smaller and my garage proprietor told me that with some cars it is necessary to lift the engine to replace the timing belt. That makes. it an even more expensive job.

As well as replacing the belt it is necessary to replace tensioners if they are plastic and in some cases it is recommended that the water pump is replaced too.

The service history will show this. Best to ensure all these documents are available when choosing a vehicle. Buying without evidence of how a car has been looked after is taking an unnecessary risk. If you are intent on buying a vehicle without evidence of a timing belt change then get it done straight away.

The service booklet should show if a timing belt has been changed, but if hand-written it can be changed. My garage gave me separate evidence of when this was done and that will be given to whoever buys the car.

I have been looking on here on how to Start a Topic but I can’t seem to find the answer.So I thought I would try replying to this one with my issue
Hello
This is question is relating to problems that I have had with a car Garage after putting my vehicle in for some straightforward repairs.
I bought a 66 Vw Beetle last July and it had a few issues that I wanted to get sorted out So I contacted a Vw Beetle specialist who agreed to do The work.The issues were
The door Windows which were converted to one piece cal look came off the tracking as they hadn’t been fitted correctly.
The door seals needed changing as the doors wouldn’t close without slamming them
The Handbrake would stick on when applied
It had a quick shifter fitted and wouldn’t go into 2nd easily
And there were aftermarket gauges fitted and these were working intermittently
That’s is basically the job list of things required
The garage propreieter said that they also had to fit a new pedal assembly
And that they checked the brakes and they were all fine

My issue with the service that I recieved which I believe to be way below substandard is as follows.My car went into the company on 19th August last year and after a few initial updates I heard nothing from them for nearly 2 months.
I have had to constantly chase the company up for updates about the vehicle which was only finished yesterday! 10th July 2020.The proprietor has over this period furnished me with countless excuses as to why he hadn’t got back to me or why my vehicle was still unfinished from his daughter being rushed to hospital to his staff member being on a ventilator during the covid lockdown.He says his garage was shut for 3 months during this period however on Google it stated it was open and nothing on his website indicated that it wasnt.He admitted on a couple of emails that he had taken my vehicle out of the workshop to work on other vehicles but would get back on it straight away but then I heard nothing from him until I chased him up again.
I have sent countless e-mails to him over this period to get updates on progress and sent letters to his business address and I have been met with apologies and excuses.
I contacted the Citizens advice who said that I had a case under the 2015 consumer rights act whereby the work wasn’t carried out in a reasonable time
I have sent two letters to him with the act and asked if was part of the Adr scheme.I told him that I would be seeking a price reduction for not having my Car for 11 months and it would be up to 100%
This issue has caused me a lot of streets and I have had to take time out to send letters to his business address and making phone calls to citizens advice and sending the emails
He has now presented me with an Invoice for over £3k most of this being Labour which he says that he will look at reducing however he states that he has put a lot of time into the car.I think this is very excessive.I had received no invoices or estimates or updates as to how much was owed since the vehicle was left with the company or any quotes on the final costs of the repairs until yesterday.
I have been without my Car now for 11 Months which is way beyond a reasonable time frame to carry out the work in my opinion. I insured the vehicle shortly before it went into the garage and that is very soon to expire and I have had no use of the car.Any advice will be helpful.

Hi clondon48

Welcome to Which? Conversation.

As you have discovered ordinary posters cannot start new topics here, but can start threads within topics.

I’m not a Beetle expert, so I assume by 66 you mean your car was made in 1966 rather than that being some kind of model number.

If so, the age of your car will be a complicating factor in your case, because work to repair or restore such old vehicles can readily snowball, as each problem fixed leads to the discovery of yet more work to do.

It is also unusual to rely on such a vehicle as essential transport. Most owners only use such vehicles as recreational items. That said, an old friend of mine did use an old Moggie Minor as his only car for many years. He carried out a lot of work himself, but also had a certain local garage who helped with other jobs.

In general, if it is important to keep a car in use, a time and cost estimate should always be prepared and accepted before any garage is set to work on one’s vehicle.

If such a step was taken in your case, then the garage has clearly failed to meet their obligations under any resulting verbal contract, so you should be entitled to compensation.

For a complicated case like this, you may find that it is worth subscribing to Which? Legal, so they help you as required.

You can submit a proposal under the “Community” tab “your ideas” but this seems to receive little attention. You could also email Which? through the “contact us” link at the bottom of the page.

I’d suggest you ask Which? Legal about your car issue.

Hello and welcome to Which? Convo.

You were right to contact Citizens Advice, but they will not help you negotiate an outcome. If you want personal help you could join Which? Legal: https://legalservice.which.co.uk

Many businesses closed in March and if the garage has had an employee with coronavirus, then it’s hardly surprising that they have been cautious. That does not explain the unreasonable delay between August and February. Perhaps it would be best to focus on this.

Many small businesses do not run their own websites and I have seen local examples of websites showing businesses open when I know they were closed.

The fact that you have paid for insurance while you have not had your car might not be considered relevant if the case went to court. When negotiating with the garage it’s best to be realistic about your expectations and it seems unlikely that you will get a full refund.

If the garage is a member of any trade body you could contact them for advice and let them know that one of their members is not performing well.

Unless there is a gearbox fault, the jobs you have described seem straightforward as long as the gearbox is not faulty. If you are going to run a car that is over 50 years old it might be worth learning to do jobs for yourself. These cars are not complicated and there are plenty of enthusiasts who can offer advice.

Best of luck.

I remember reading your previous request for advice which was in the “Do You Know Your Consumer Rights?” Conversation – probably the most appropriate place as it happens. See – https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/consumer-rights-complaints-faulty-problems/#comment-1602117

No one responded, probably because it is a particularly tricky question and no one had a straightforward answer to your dilemma. If none of the usual contributors [who are not Which? staff] can comment it gets left on the side and ultimately ignored I am afraid. We have no remedy for that, unfortunately. Sometimes it might get picked up by one of the lawyers in the Which? Legal service but they rarely give detailed legal advice on a particular problem as it would usually involve finding out a lot more information than is provided by the enquirer in an initial comment. Understandably, they will not usually go beyond giving general information on the law and how it might apply in the particular case because their formal function is to provide bespoke legal advice to members of the Which? Legal service for which there is a membership fee and a subscription [see Wavechange’s comment immediately above].

I cannot add anything to the guidance offered already by Derek, Malcolm and Wavechange. You probably would benefit from legal advice and action if the likely outcome is worth the cost, but the one thing it will not do is get your car back in your hands any sooner or compensate you for the value of the excess time lost while it was under repair [and that itself is a matter for argument].

If I were in your shoes I would persist in pressing your garage to finish all essential work on the car as quickly as possible, see what they can do to reduce the cost of the work done so far, and return the car to your possession without further delay. Do try to keep relations between you and the garage amicable even though they have clearly let you down. You could argue for ever over the finer details of all the points you have mentioned but ultimately for no guaranteee of satisfaction. You have acted diligently in trying to keep the pressure on the company throughout the period but they have failed to respond; that could be an indicator of how things would go if you forced them into a legal action during which your car would still be in their hands.

It is not a nice situation and I am sorry there is not a textbook exit from it that will give you an adequate remedy.

clondon48

You should have been offered a courtesy car by the garage carrying out the repair to your Beetle as it took such a long time – even discounting COVID-19.

If your car was being used by the garage to carry out their business, that would be considered unreasonable by the ombudsman who would take the following into consideration:

Delays to repairs
Quality of work carried out
Further damage caused during repair
Lack of courtesy vehicle
The decision to repair instead of writing-off the vehicle

Check out this website before you take any further action:

http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk – Vehicle Repairs – Financial Ombudsman Service – 12th June 2020

Sean says:
10 October 2020

Advice needed please, I bought a cat D/N car on 2/10/2020 I was told on the phone before going to see it that the parking sensor alert would sound when reversing, which I was ok with, so I went to see this car and looked around it and saw bits of damage to the driver’s mirror, drivers rear light cluster and left passenger wing which again wasn’t too much of a problem, so I took it for a test drive for 2 minutes all seemed fine (barring the sensor alert) but it drove quite nice so I bought it using a credit card and part exchanged my current car it cost £4,899. Then on the way home I noticed that cruise control wouldn’t work and dash said it was unavailable and just thought I was doing something wrong and that I will figure it out tomorrow. over the next few days I still can’t get it to work so I take it to auto electricians who puts it on diagnostic machine which throws up 16 fault cods over 10 different modules, the electrician advises me to take it back to seller and get my money back as it could cost £1000 to fix due to the nature of the fault codes, so I called the dealer who said we have a few options 1) he could try to fix it but can’t garantee that he will be succesful but will find another suitable car for us, 2) we could keep the car as is and make do and he wil give us £50 as a good will gesture not an apology (exact words) or we could have a refund so i said ok can you try fix it as i do like how the car drives in terms of comfort handling and gear change so he said yes but again can’t garantee it will be fixed due to the problem with the cruise controll so i stupidly said ok i will bring it in on tuesday 13/10/2020 but then realised that there could be a lot more wrong with this car and don’t want to risk more problems but also something about the dealer didn’t feele right so the next day i phonede back and said i would rather have a refund instead, so he said let me speak to my warranty team because i don’t think you are covered for a refund because the fault isn’t mechanical and me not knowing much about the legalities said ok, he then phones back and says that his legal team said im not covered under warranty so i asked what the legal team was called because under the consumers rights act 2015 i am entitled to a refund because it is faulty and although the sensors were mentioned the cruise control was not and he some how talked me into accepting the repair which i don’t really want i just want my money back primarily beacause one of the slling points was the cruise control but also becuse i have now found that the back driverside door doesn’t open from inside without flicking the child lock switch on the actual door near the locking machanism, and the bumper is screwed on with domestic D.I.Y house screws it is an absolute bodge job and looks like cowboy D.I.Y’ers have put it together i haven’t mentioned these findings to the dealer yet as i only found them late yesterday and he was closed and is closed today too, my question is am I infact within my rights legally to send a letter explaining my concerns and findings and reject the car and ask for a full refund?

Hi Seán, I had to look up what you meant by those categories.

As discussed here:-https://theusedcarguy.co.uk/car-scams/sold-as-seen-we-think-not/ cars sold for road use must be road worthy.

But with a category N car, I think you must be prepared to find and repair other defects yourself.

As the car in question here seems to be in very poor condition, I suggest you pursue a full refund.

Sean – You have not stated how much you paid for the used car or what age and model it was. That does have a bearing on what you are entitled to expect in terms of its condition and the performance of features that are not critical to its roadworthiness.

I think overall it could successfully be argued that the car is not ‘as described’, mainly on the grounds that several defects not apparent when looking at it and on a brief road test were not mentioned or – in your view – reflected in the price. In other words, it was presented as being in satisfactory condition for its price. On that basis I agree with Derek and suggest you seek a full refund.

You wrote that the cruise control was one of the selling points; did you mean that the dealer advertised or presented that feature, or did you mean that it was one of your buying criteria that you had specifically stated? In either case that strengthens your claim for a refund on the ‘not as described’ grounds set out in the Consumer Rights Act.