Differing new car specification

The consumer’s issue:

“I purchased a pre-registered vehicle in March 2017. When I bought the car, I told the accredited business that I wanted one with at least the same specification as the car I traded in, which was an older model of the car I bought. However, when I received my new vehicle, I found it was missing ambient lighting and cruise control so I felt like it had been mis-sold.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • As with all vehicles, specifications change continually and special editions will only be available for a limited period.
  • The consumer’s original vehicle is no longer manufactured, and the model purchased is the closest in specification containing some additional features, whilst omitting others.
  • The consumer enquired about various models before purchase and stated that they were looking for something similar to their previous car.
  • There is no record of it needing to be nothing less than their previous car and our customer information sheet doesn’t state that any particular features were desired. Parking sensors and satellite navigation were included in the sale as these were discussed, but were not standard specification.
  • It is not possible to list every feature a car has. Sales advisors will offer as much information as they can, which, in conjunction with information in brochures and on the website, should be sufficient for someone to make an informed choice.
  • We have offered three free services and a full tank of fuel as a gesture of goodwill.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The adjudicator didn’t think she could uphold the complaint.
  • It is very difficult to work out what was discussed at the point of sale, and there were discrepancies between the two accounts of events.
  • However, the records held by the accredited business demonstrated that the consumer was looking for “something similar” to her previous car, as opposed to “nothing less”.
  • There was also nothing noted on the customer information sheet to demonstrate that a specific feature was asked for at the time of sale.
  • As such, there was no evidence to demonstrate that the car had been mis-sold.
  • The consumer disagreed as the record showing she was looking for “something similar” predated the sale and the customer information sheet which wasn’t signed by her therefore didn’t apply. She proceeded to ask for a final decision from the ombudsman.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman also didn’t uphold the consumer’s complaint.
  • Firstly, it was evident that there had been some discussion about specification. This demonstrated to that the consumer should have been aware that the vehicle she was purchasing was different to what she currently had.
  • This was because satellite navigation and parking sensors, both features on her previous car, had been added to the sale – meaning the consumer could have realised that the car she was buying was missing some of the features of hers. This would be understandable as many of the features on her original car were optional.
  • It was acknowledged that the customer information sheet was not signed by the consumer and was an internal document, so wasn’t the strongest of evidence, and that her enquiry looking for “something similar” predated the sale by some way.
  • However, the facts that could be established supported a conclusion that the consumer was or should have been aware that the car she was buying had different features to the one that she had traded in.
  • Secondly, because of the change in specification, it would have been very difficult for the accredited business to find a vehicle which matched all of her requirements – which included colour and budget.
  • If there had to be a compromise in some way, it is likely that compromise would be on specification.
  • However, with all facts taken into account, there was no evidence which demonstrated it was more likely than not that the consumer was led to believe that the car she was buying was exactly the same as her previous model.


  • The accredited business was found not to be in breach of the Code of Practice for Vehicle Sales and their gesture of goodwill was considered reasonable in the circumstances.