The consumer’s issue:
“I bought my fourth electric vehicle: the ‘improved’ 40kW model. The fact that I often used the car for long journeys was discussed with the business prior to purchase. The dealer believed that the car with a 33% larger battery was ‘better for my purpose’. My first long trip in the new model was anything but ‘improved’ – the car’s range decreased between charges, and the charging time also increased, meaning that my usual journey was extended by three hours.
I contacted the dealer and they were unaware of charging issues, and advised that I made a complaint to the manufacturer who told me to take it to a technician for further investigation. I highlighted again to the dealer and manufacturer that if a technical solution was not found, I required a full refund of the cost of the vehicle as it not fit for my purpose.
The manufacturer assured me that ongoing investigations would not affect my 30 days’ consumer rights. Prior to the release of the vehicle, the manufacturer had introduced a Rapid Charging Constraint due to a battery design issue. There was no previous disclosure of this constraint compromising long distance use to either customers or dealers. Had this been known, I would not have purchased the vehicle and am therefore looking for a full refund.”
The accredited business’ response:
- The consumer purchased a new electric vehicle from us in March, and returned it a couple of weeks later as he believed that there was a fault with the charging of the vehicle.
- We supplied the consumer with a courtesy vehicle, and checked his car for any faults, but none where found.
- We also contacted the manufacturer’s technical support department, who confirmed that all checks had been carried out correctly and that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle.
- In addition, the manufacturer contacted the customer mid-April, explaining to them that the vehicle was performing as designed.
- The consumer returned the courtesy vehicle and collected his own car at the end of April.
The adjudication outcome:
- The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator observed that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 does not necessitate there to be a defect to afford a rejection, only a breach of contract.
- Breach of contract can be in various forms, including an incorporated or implied purpose that the consumer has made known in the pre-contractual stage of the sale.
- This means that if the consumer’s needs are reasonably expected to be made known in the sale process, which he asserts, and no one has corrected him in asserting, and if it is shown that the car does not meet these needs, then the vehicle may be a breach of contract.
- The adjudicator saw that the consumer appeared to have continued using the vehicle, despite it not meeting his needs, likely causing some inconvenience, but this still constituted use.
- The adjudicator noted the Consumer Rights Act’s provisions for a full refund, but also recognised that in contract law, and the law in general, that there were exceptions to the rule to ensure proportionality and fairness when looking to make awards.
- In order to accommodate these, he requested the current mileage of the vehicle, and what use of it the consumer has been able to have to further consider what award would be proportionate in this case.
- The parties have yet to provide the requested information to allow quantification of the award in principle and the case remains ongoing.