Judge praises Car Dealers conduct – A lesson in good practice.

Last month one of our professional members attended a small claims hearing in the Reading County Court and was represented by counsel (a specialist barrister), arranged by Lawgistics.

The consumer sought to reject the car supplied by our member under the provisions of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 on the basis that he had experienced some issues with the car post delivery/sale.

Under cross-examination by counsel the consumer admitted that a minor issue with the heater had been repaired by the dealer, by agreement. He went on to concede there had been no problem with the car prior to the issue with the turbo actuator arising some time post delivery/sale.

He also confirmed there had been nothing to foreshadow either the problem with the turbo actuator or the problem with the brake sensors that arose shortly thereafter.

He also accepted that he had no evidence that these issues were present at the time of delivery and accepted that he had agreed to the repair, at least of the turbo actuator.

Finally, he accepted that the major issues had been resolved by the repair, that they had not recurred, and that he was still driving the car.

After hearing all the evidence and final submissions from counsel the Judge deliberated for some time before handing down her judgment.

First, she accepted the factual evidence of both witnesses.

She concluded that on the balance of probabilities the major problems that arose with the car had not been present at the point of delivery. This was based on the fact that there had been no prior indication of the problems that arose, that no problems had been identified on either a pre-sale RAC inspection or the MOT carried out very shortly prior to the sale and our member’s evidence that electrical faults generally occurred suddenly, rather than building up over time.

She also noted that the car had been purchased when it was ten years old and had nearly 83,000 miles on the clock. She accepted that with such a car a purchaser was taking a risk, and that it was unfortunate for the consumer that the matters had arisen so soon, but that did not render the car of unsatisfactory quality at the time of delivery.

The consumer had not, therefore, discharged the burden of proving that the car was not of satisfactory quality at the time of delivery. In fact, the Judge found that it had then been of satisfactory quality; the initial problem with the heating did not alter this. As such, the remedies under section 19 of the 2015 Act were applicable.

In any event, she also found that the car had been repaired with the consumers consent. Such repair had resolved the major problems. As a result, even if the car had not been of satisfactory quality at the time of delivery, the consumer had lost the ability to exercise the short-term right to reject (section 23(6) of the Consumer Rights Act provides that once a consumer has agreed to the repair of goods, the short-term right to reject cannot be exercised unless and until the trader has had a reasonable opportunity to carry out repairs). The final right to reject did not arise because following the repairs the car was of satisfactory quality, even if it had not been before.
 
The Judge did note in the recital that, “the Defendant agrees to fix the auxiliary port and to review the dashboard warning light, the rear registration plate light, and the crackle on the radio” (or words to the that effect). Not being in the order this is not binding, but it reflects our members stated willingness to look at the outstanding issues regardless, which was commendable.

The claim against our member was duly dismissed.
 
While not central to her decision, the Judge also recorded that both parties had acted entirely reasonably throughout and it was unlucky that the car developed problems so soon after delivery.

The Judge went on to comment that our member appeared to be a very reputable car dealership.

Indeed, even the consumer acknowledged in his evidence that our member had been very helpful in seeking to resolve issues that arose, and that he had no complaints about their customer service.

The Judge said that while the consumer was unlucky to have purchased a car that went wrong so soon after purchase, he was lucky to have purchased it from a reputable dealership, which had acted swiftly to resolve the matters that arose.

This is a case study as to how car dealers should properly prepare cars for sale, address consumer complaints, conduct litigation and give evidence before the Courts, ably advised and assisted in some small part by Lawgistics and represented before the Court by trusted, experienced, specialist counsel, whose services we are able to call upon, as required.  

 

Authors: Howard Tilney

Published: 12 Jul 2017

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