Blown head gasket after purchase

The consumer’s issue:

I bought a car, but 15 days later, it broke down. It was recovered to a repairer for a diagnosis who discovered that the head gasket had blown. As this fault developed in the first 30 days of ownership of the car, I would like to exercise my right to reject the vehicle and claim a full refund. The business has asked me to provide a court-approved engineering report to prove that the fault was present on purchase even though a motoring advice service has said that this isn’t required. The business has offered to either buy back my vehicle at just over a third of its original price if I do not provide a report, or to repair the car. I do not think it is my obligation to provide court worthy documentation to exercise a right of rejection and claim my refund.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • The customer reported a fault in the first 30 days of ownership. This does not automatically mean the owner can get a refund. For them to be eligible for a refund, they have to prove that there is a fault with a car, that it was there at the point of sale, and also prove that the fault is worthy of a refund.
  • If a head gasket has failed, we accept a consumer may be entitled to a refund although there is nothing wrong with offering a repair.
  • For the benefit of the doubt, we will accept the customer’s report. However, we would like to propose three offers: to repair the vehicle; to replace the vehicle; or refund the full amount paid for the vehicle.
  • If the customer accepts any of these remedies, it is their responsibility to return the vehicle to us. They have agreed to this in our business terms and conditions.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator noted that the business was correct in its observation about the obligation to provide evidence.
  • However, the adjudicator advised caution of seeking to compel the consumer to provide a court-approved document in every instance. The adjudicator reasoned that whilst such documents may be referred to in eventual proceedings, they are costly. This could be seen as placing a financial barrier to a consumer accessing their rights, and could be argued that under the same rules of civil procedure, the consumer could apply to have the business meet 50% of that cost, though only if it is agreed a report of that calibre were necessary and if the value of the claim were of a suitably lower amount.
  • The equally adjudicator noted that the terms of this business purported to compel such reports for all rejection cases, and they traded in lower value vehicles, which would in almost all instances, meet the above criteria and potentially cause further issues if those terms remained.
  • The adjudicator also noted that the report supplied by the repairer was also more than suitable to provide a clear picture of the cause of failure and gave enough information to suggest the fault was present at sale.
  • The consumer would therefore have been well within their rights to pursue a full refund without a court-approved document, as well as any reasonably mitigated losses associated with the failure of the part.
  • The adjudicator also observed that, whilst the law does not compel the consumer to return the goods, the terms of business might require this.
  • The law does require the business to meet any costs of that return. As the vehicle was immobile, the business may wish to arrange recovery to ensure the costs were as low as they possibly could be.

Conclusion

  • The parties agreed to the adjudication outcome and are currently arranging the terms of the vehicle’s return and costs to be considered for the award.