3 recent cases involving purchase of high end cars
During the last year, I have been instructed to advise and/or legally represent clients, as to their consumer rights, in disputes in relation to cases involving the purchase of prestige motor vehicles.
Case 1: Porsche
In May 2020, my client had hire purchased a new Porsche for £138,503. 12 months later, the vehicle developed a juddering and my client wanted to have the vehicle repaired or replaced by the Porsche dealership.
Case 2: Range Rover
In June 2022, my client had hire purchased a Range Rover with 39,000 miles from a dealership online for £52,840. At the delivery, my client discovered numerous problems with the vehicle and returned the vehicle to the dealership two days later.
Case 3: Mercedes Benz
In January 2020, my client purchased an eight-month-old Mercedes Benz with 27,233 miles, which had been advertised by the dealership to be in “pristine condition” and with “no faults or issues”, for £34,224. Following delivery, my client discovered defects which he reported to the dealership. In March 2020, the Dealership collected the vehicle to undertake repairs. When the vehicle was returned to my client, the defects had not been fixed, but the mileage of the vehicle had increased by 262 miles. My client “rejected the vehicle under the Consumer Rights Act”.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“CRA”) only applies if the vehicle was sold by a trader to a consumer. A “consumer” is an individual acting for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession (section 2(3)). Where a consumer contracts for dual purposes (business and personal), they will still be a consumer if the trade purpose is so limited that it is not predominant. In my above cases, although all my clients were company directors, their respective vehicles were predominantly used as family cars.
If they are not, the consumer is entitled to the following remedies:
Short-term right to reject
The short-term right to reject is limited to 30 days (section 22), which runs from the date the vehicle was delivered. This 30 day period can be extended by the trader, but cannot be reduced (section 22(1)).
The short-term right to reject is not lost just because the consumer requests a repair or replacement, but the time period stops running while the goods are being replaced or repaired, and the consumer then has at least 7 days after receiving the replacement or repair to reject.
Right to repair or replacement / price reduction or final right to reject
The consumer has a right to repair or replacement of the non-conforming goods, or to a price reduction or final right to reject.
Repair or replacement are often referred to as “first tier remedies”, and the right to a price reduction and final right to reject as “second tier remedies”.
Generally, the trader must accept one attempt at a repair or replacement (unless repair or replacement is impossible or has not been carried out within a reasonable period of time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer), before moving to the second-tier remedies.
A final right to reject is the final tier of a consumer’s “tiered” remedies.
As to how any rejection of goods must be given, a consumer must simply indicate to the trader that they are rejecting the goods and treating the contract as an end (section 20(5)). That indication does not need to be in writing, and can be something that the consumer says or does as long as it is clear enough to be understood by the trader (section 20(6)). To treat a contract as at an end means treating it as repudiated (section 19(13)).
Following rejection, the trader must give the consumer a refund, and the consumer must make the goods available for collection or return them to the trader (at the trader’s reasonable cost) if there is agreement on this (for example, in the contract). The right to a refund, following rejection, is qualified in various ways, for example in the case of hire contracts. Specific rules apply to the refund available to the consumer (sections 20(8)-(15)).
The consumer benefits from a reverse burden of proof during the first six months of the contract in respect of these remedies (but not the short-term right to reject). This means that goods which do not conform to the contract at any time within the period of six months from delivery of the goods are taken not to have conformed to it on delivery, unless such a presumption is incompatible with the nature of the goods or how they fail to conform to the contract (section 19(14)).
Applying the above Consumer Rights to my cases
Case 1: Porsche
The dealership disputed that the vehicle had been of unsatisfactory quality at the time of delivery. Our technical expert could not confirm whether the vehicle already had the defect causing the juddering at the time of delivery, or not. Under the circumstances, I advised my client that a claim under the CRA had little prospect of success. Fortunately, our client had been given a three year warranty by Porsche which covered the technical issue of the vehicle and the car was repaired without any cost for my client.
Case 2: Range Rover
My client had rejected the vehicle within the short-term right to reject under the CRA and had his money refunded.
Case 3: Mercedes Benz
As the dealership has disputed any short comings in relation to the advertisements and any defects, my client has issued court proceedings. An independent jointly instructed expert confirmed both the short comings in relation to the ads and the defects. The trial is listed for next week. It is anticipated that the court will give judgment for my client.
As the above examples show, knowing your rights and the timelines under the CRA is vital to ensure the buyer’s rights under the CRA and to get the dealership to repair the defective vehicle at their cost or to refund the money to the buyer.