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When can I bring legal action for a faulty car issue?

View profile for Liam Waine
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There is nothing more frustrating than noticing defects with a car that you have recently purchased.  This can be exacerbated by the garage from where you purchased it from and/or the finance company (if relevant) not acknowledging the defects and not assisting with getting the problems resolved.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, then there are a number of things that you can do to protect your position as a consumer.

If you have bought a vehicle from a garage (whether it is brand new or second hand), and you are purchasing it as a consumer, there are some basic consumer rights which you should be aware of.

Firstly, any vehicle that you buy from a business that sells vehicles, must be of satisfactory quality and fit for its intended purpose.  The Vehicle should also match the description provided to you at the time of purchase. These are implied rights provided by The Consumer Rights Act 2015 which are included in any business to consumer contract for the purchase of a vehicle. 

A vehicle will be deemed to be of satisfactory quality if it met the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking account of any description of the vehicle, the price paid and any other relevant circumstances.  A logic and common sense approach is performed here and matters to look at which could affect whether the vehicle is not of satisfactory quality cover the following;

  • Whether the vehicle is fit for the purpose it was supplied
  • The appearance and finish of the vehicle
  • Whether the vehicle is free from minor defects
  • Whether the defects compromise the safety and durability of the vehicle.

If you can show the defects that you have experienced with the vehicle were present at the time of purchase then a consumer will have a short term right to reject the vehicle, provided he or she exercises this right within the first 30 days of being in possession of the vehicle. If you can show a fault exists within the first 30 days, then the fault is assumed to have been present at the time of delivery. However, it would be for the trader to rebut this presumption. If you wish for the garage to attempt to repair or replace the vehicle during this initial 30 days, then the time period is paused for the short term right to reject. Once the repair is completed, or replacement provided, the time period re-starts. So, if further issues do occur then you could still exercise the short term right to reject provided you do so before expiry of the first 30 days.

If you experience defects after the first 30 days, then a consumer will still have a right to repair and/or replacement. If this is not a proportionate way of dealing with matter, or it will result in significant inconvenience to the consumer, or it will take an unreasonable amount of time to cure, a consumer will have either a right to a price reduction or the final right to reject.

The circumstances of a case can differ significantly, and so here is a list of some top tips that you should consider ensuring you are in the best possible position if there is a need to take formal legal action:

  1. Ensure that you keep a copy of all sales documents such as the sales order/invoice.
  2. Keep a copy of any finance agreement (if relevant)
  3. Keep a copy of the original advert for the vehicle (E.g. autotrader or the supplier’s website).
  4. Keep a contemporaneous note of the defects and ensure you take pictures or video clips when possible before any attempts of repair are made by the garage.
  5. Keep a copy of all correspondence you have had with the garage and/or the finance company.
  6. If the vehicle is valued between £100 and £30,000 it is always worth paying a deposit via a credit card to ensure you have protection and a like claim against the credit card company pursuant to Section 75 of The Consumer Credit Act 1974.
  7. Consider having an independent inspection carried out by a consultant motor vehicle engineer.  Such report should comply with Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
  8. Act quickly to ensure any claim is not prejudiced and/or becomes time barred.

If a vehicle has been bought through your business from a vehicle trader, then it is unlikely the provisions of The Consumer Rights Act 2015 will apply. However, this does not mean the business does not have any rights and there may well be implied terms which are relevant and still operational under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 or the Sale of Goods (Implied Terms) Act 1973.

In lots of cases there is always a possibility that a resolution can be achieved between the parties before there is a need to take formal legal action. However, if you do find yourself in a position with a defective vehicle it is important that you take independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure that your claim can be in the best possible position.Our dispute resolution team can help with a range of disputes including faulty vehicle claims. Contact our team on 0161 696 6178.