The consumer’s issue:
“I purchased a five-year-old city car from a dealership in June 2017 that had approximately 32,694 miles on the clock. In March 2018, the clutch failed, so I took the car back to the seller and they told me a new clutch pack was needed at a cost of £1,326. I agreed to pay this amount, and they said that the cause of the failure was wear and tear resulting from my style of driving.
I’m not happy about this, as I had only covered 1,470 miles in nine months. The vehicle also doesn’t have a regular service history, and the dealership didn’t provide me with this information when I bought the car. I’m disappointed that I had to pay for the repair, and I believe the car wasn’t of satisfactory quality when it was sold to me. I’d therefore like the dealership to refund me the money I paid for the rectification work.”
The accredited business’ response:
- At the time the consumer purchased the car, we completed a used car health check, which passed the manufacturer’s standards, and no concerns were found with the operation of the clutch.
- In March 2018, the consumer brought the car to us due to a loss of drive. We advised them at this point that the defect might not be covered under warranty, and that they would be responsible for the cost of removing the gearbox to allow an inspection of the clutch.
- When we proceeded with the inspection, we found that the failure happened because of wear and tear. This meant that there was no manufacturing defect or a warrantable concern, and the consumer had authorised the repair.
- However, when they collected the vehicle, they were not happy with the cost, but we explained that we couldn’t process this through the warranty, and that the failure was not related to the car’s service history.
- As a result, we are not liable for covering the cost of the repair of the clutch.
The adjudication outcome:
- The adjudicator remarked that the issue with the clutch came to light more than six months after the car was bought.
- This meant that the onus was on the consumer to prove that the fault existed at the time the vehicle was sold.
- In the absence of any evidence to show this or the availability of an independent technical report, the adjudicator could not conclude that the car was of unsatisfactory quality when it was sold, and therefore could not uphold the complaint in the consumer’s favour.
- The customer disagreed with the outcome, and requested that the case was reviewed by the ombudsman.
The ombudsman’s final decision:
- The ombudsman stated that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 places a legal obligation on the dealership to supply a car that is of satisfactory quality, and this included durability.
- She also said the car was a used vehicle, so it was reasonable to expect some wear and tear for its age.
- However, the car was five years old with 32,694 miles on the clock at the time of sale, so this was considered below average use, and it was therefore reasonable for the consumer to expect a certain degree of durability from the clutch, especially when taking into account the cost of replacing it.
- The ombudsman equally noted that the consumer had only covered 1,470 miles over a period of nine months since the purchase, and was clearly a low mileage user.
- Therefore, had the average consumer been driving the car, this fault would have come to light within six months, and the dealership would have been expected to cover the cost of the repair.
- The ombudsman acknowledged the clutch was subject to wear and tear, but she thought that, based on the limited mileage covered since purchase, the clutch was most likely to have been in a progressed state of deterioration at the time the car was sold.
- She also remarked that the dealership was clearly aware the consumer wasn’t happy with the fact they had to pay for the repair, and therefore, they should have either retained the clutch, or offered to give it to the consumer so it could be independently inspected – but this wasn’t done.
- The ombudsman deemed this to have prejudiced the consumer’s complaint and there was no real evidence to show the actual cause of the failure.
- In conclusion, the ombudsman said it was more likely than not that the fault with the clutch had been developing over time, and was in a progressed state when the car was sold.
- As a result, the consumer’s complaint was upheld in their favour, and the ombudsman explained that the dealership should have carried out a free repair, and that they should refund the consumer for the money that they had paid to date for the new clutch.