The consumer’s issue:
“I purchased a brand-new ’66-plate people carrier in October 2016, and it worked fine for the first 18 months, but then in April 2018, I found that the battery had gone flat overnight. I contacted the breakdown recovery service, and they recharged the battery, but said they couldn’t find any faults with it. Nine months later, in January 2019, the heated front windscreen wasn’t working, so I took the car to the selling dealership and they said there was low voltage on the battery, which was restricting operation. I have some aftermarket adaptations fitted to the vehicle, and initially they said this may have drained the battery. However, I’ve had these on all my cars for many years due to my disability and I’ve never had any problems.
The dealership did say they couldn’t find a fault with the battery, but I believe it was faulty and I chose to replace it. I don’t think the seller and manufacturer carried out enough tests to check the health of the battery. I’d therefore like the manufacturer to reimburse me the sum of £200 for the cost of the new battery as a resolution to this dispute.”
The accredited business’ response:
- The customer contacted us regarding a battery issue with the vehicle.
- We liaised with the dealership, and they advised that they had investigated the consumer’s concern and no fault was found at this time. As such, they believed that the drain on the battery was caused by the aftermarket adaptations installed on the vehicle.
- The customer was unhappy with the diagnosis, and felt that the battery was defective, so they made the decision to buy a new one themselves. At no time did the diagnosis from the dealership reflect this.
- The consumer equally stated that we did not investigate the issue, but the dealership carried out a diagnosis, and there was no record of the customer requesting a more comprehensive investigation, which would have been at their own cost, pending a fault being found.
- There was also no need to refer this matter to our technical team and, as our dealership deemed there to be no issue, we were unable to carry out any repairs under the terms of our warranty.
The adjudication outcome:
- The adjudicator reviewed the information provided by both parties, but concluded that it was more likely than not that the defective battery was the result of poor workmanship or materials used during the manufacturing process because the documentation suggested that there was no battery drain.
- The report provided by the breakdown recovery service showed that there was no manufacturing defect with the battery, as nothing was draining it.
- In addition, the invoice for the battery replacement shows that, when the checks were carried out, the battery was in a good condition and no drain was present.
- The adjudicator therefore concluded that the issue with the battery was not caused by a manufacturing defect and the consumer’s complaint could therefore not be upheld in their favour.
- The consumer disagreed with the adjudicator’s findings and requested an ombudsman’s final decision.
The ombudsman’s final decision:
- The ombudsman reviewed the information provided and said that a manufacturer was only liable for covering the cost of repairs where a component suffers from a manufacturing defect.
- She said the customer had used the car for 18 months with no problems, so it was unlikely that the adaptations placed on the car at the time of purchase had caused the battery drainage.
- However, she did note that the battery had gone flat overnight only once in 18 months, and then nine months later, during the winter season, the battery voltage was found to be low.
- The ombudsman said there were several factors which may have impacted the battery life during these two separate incidents. Particularly during the winter months, she said the battery is likely to drain quicker due to the components that are used, such as heating in the car. And if the vehicle isn’t used enough for the battery to charge fully, then this will result in the supply of low voltage.
- She said this incident wasn’t a persistent reoccurrence, and if the battery had been faulty, it was more likely than not that the consumer would have experienced issues with it much more frequently.
- The ombudsman noted the consumer’s concerns that there had been insufficient checks on the battery’s health. However, she said she had no reason to believe that a franchised dealer didn’t have the necessary equipment to assess the health and condition of the battery.
- Therefore, as the battery was found to be in a good condition, and there was no evidence of a fault, the repair would not be covered under warranty and the consumer’s complaint could not be upheld on this occasion.
- Neither party responded to the ombudsman’s final decision and the case was closed.