Hire car purchase misunderstanding

The consumer’s issue:

“I bought a used car, and at the time of purchase, I asked the business during a telephone conversation if the vehicle had been used as a hire car. I was advised that it was an ex-fleet car only, but following the purchase of the vehicle, I received the V5 documents and saw that the previous owner was a car rental business. If I had known that it was used as a hire car, I would not have bought it. The business has offered a price reduction, but I don’t believe it’s enough in view of what’s happened.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • The consumer asked about the vehicle’s previous owner during a telephone conversation, and we advised that it was a one owner fleet car. However, they didn’t query if the vehicle was a ‘hire’ car.
  • We have made a number of offers to the consumer in light of the misunderstanding, but they have all been rejected.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator didn’t uphold the customer’s complaint, as he said that they hadn’t provided enough evidence to show that they had suffered a financial loss as a result of buying an ex-rental car.
  • The adjudicator said that the consumer also had not supplied information to demonstrate that there was a difference in cost between an ex-rental car and an ex-lease car.
  • The consumer was not satisfied that their claim was not upheld, and requested a final decision from the ombudsman.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman said the business has an obligation to provide the consumer with all relevant information at the time of sale, which may influence the customer’s decision to purchase the car.
  • The ombudsman listened to the call that the consumer had referred to, and there was no evidence demonstrating that the consumer had specifically asked whether the car was an ex-hire car.
  • However, the ombudsman accepted that the average customer would not necessarily know that an ‘ex-fleet’ was an ex-hire car, and concluded that the business should have explained this to the consumer when asked about the previous owner.
  • The ombudsman noted that the business had offered to buy back the car, to provide a replacement vehicle, and to give a price reduction of £500 as a gesture of goodwill for the mis-understanding.
  • She noted that the consumer hadn’t accepted any of the offers, and said that, due to the time that had passed, a replacement car or a buyback were no longer reasonable.
  • The ombudsman concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that the business had intentionally misled the consumer and had made reasonable offers to put things right.
  • The ombudsman also stated that had the ‘hire car’ been a determining factor for this purchase, the consumer would have accepted the buyback or replacement car offers when they were put forward by the business.
  • Nevertheless, the ombudsman went on to conclude that the £500 goodwill offer was a fair and reasonable resolution and recommended that the consumer accepted this.