Used car gearbox fault

The consumer’s issue:

“I bought a 2012 plate vehicle in July 2017. After a two-week holiday, I used the car and found that despite it being put into drive, it reversed instead. After three attempts, the car went forwards. I live on a busy ring road and this is very distressing. A few days later, I went on a trip, and when I went to park the car, it refused to go into reverse and I was left stuck in the road. Once I managed to park it, I couldn’t start it again. It went to the accredited business who updated the software and said it was fine, but the next time I tried to use it, it made a loud banging noise. I took a video and showed it to the accredited business who booked the car in again, but I told them I wanted a full refund as they had already had their chance to fix it.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We took the car back and tested it and couldn’t find a fault with the gearbox.
  • We did find a fault with the starter inhibiter, but this isn’t related to the transmission.
  • As such, we consider the car to be fit for purpose and don’t accept the request for rejection by the customer.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The adjudicator reviewed the case, but couldn’t uphold the customer’s complaint.
  • She found that there had been problems with the car, which seemed to be related to the gearbox, but no fault had been diagnosed, meaning there was no evidence to suggest the car was actually faulty.
  • She believed that the accredited business had acted reasonably by offering further investigations into the problem and encouraged that these take place.
  • These investigations found a fault which was repaired, but the issue with the gearbox happened again, and the consumer wanted to take the matter further with the ombudsman.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman recognised that the accredited business had been unable to find a fault with the vehicle.
  • However, the consumer supplied a report from an independent gearbox specialist, which showed there were faults with the gearbox.
  • As a result, the ombudsman concluded that there was a right to rejection.
  • This was because a repair had already taken place, meaning the accredited business had used their one opportunity to rectify the fault with the vehicle. Therefore, the consumer was entitled to move to the next stage of their rights, which is rejection or a price reduction.
  • A price reduction didn’t feel reasonable here, as the consumer would be forced to stay in a faulty vehicle, therefore the ombudsman concluded that the consumer should receive a refund instead.
  • The refund would not be in full because it was outside of the 30-day rejection period, which meant that the accredited business was able to deduct a reasonable amount for the use of the vehicle.
  • The ombudsman also awarded the money spent in obtaining the independent report.


  • The accredited business was found to be in breach of the Code of Practice for Vehicle Sales, and the consumer was awarded a refund for their car, minus a deduction for use and other associated costs.