Intermittent automatic lighting

The consumer’s issue:

I purchased a brand-new 70-plate hatchback from a dealership on 5th September 2020, and a couple of months later, I reported a fault with the car’s automatic lighting, as it was only working intermittently.

Since then, the car was looked at on several occasions, but the fault unfortunately remained. On 19th November 2020, a new part was ordered and a fix was attempted. On 12th February 2021, a new sensor was fitted to resolve the problem, but nothing changed.

Five months into my ownership of the vehicle, the seller showed me a bulletin that confirmed the issues I was experiencing were known about from at least the 9th September 2020, which was before I raised my complaint.

The dealership has told me that the car is performing as it should, but the owner’s manual shows otherwise. As a resolution to my complaint, I am looking for the business to offer me a replacement car, a full refund or some form of compensation.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • There has been a Technical Service Bulletin issued on the lighting – it is something that the manufacturer knows about and there are suggested fixes for it, and all these have now been completed.
  • As we have had a lot of difficulty in replicating the fault with the vehicle’s lighting, we required assistance from the manufacturer’s technical department. After several guided checks recommended by them, they asked us to replace the Body Control Module (the control unit for all dashboard functions etc).
  • Sadly, the part was not immediately available causing a delay, but when the part finally arrived and was fitted, we then identified additional faults with the mirrors which the customer reported to us. Once again, we had to wait for help from the manufacturer, with more guided checks. Eventually we traced the issue and successfully rectified it.
  • When the customer reported that the fault with the light was still present, we decided the only item left to replace could be the sensor and camera, which we ordered and fitted. However, this did not rectify the problem.
  • We consulted with the manufacturer’s technical team once again, and they advised us about a Field Report Document which the customer was given a copy of.
  • However, up until this point, we were unaware that this had been provided, as it is unusual for us as a business to provided such documentation directly to the consumer. This is not because it is confidential, but is just not productive in most cases.
  • The manufacturer’s technical team is adamant that the consumer’s issue is a normal characteristic of the car, but we will nevertheless continue to monitor any concerns from customers.
  • As such, we dispute that there is a present fault with the vehicle, meaning it is both of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, thereby complying with consumer legislation. Therefore, we will be offering no further remedy to the consumer on this occasion.

The adjudication outcome:

  •  The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator explained that the dealership had the evidential burden of showing that there had not been a breach of the Vehicle Sales Code. This is because the fault with the car was found within the first six months from the point of sale.
  • Therefore, the presumption was that the issue was present when the customer bought the car.
  • Within e-mail correspondence from the business to the customer on 8th September 2020, this advised that the problem with the automatic lighting was a known characteristic of the car and not a fault. The customer also submitted the Technical Service Bulletin which confirmed the issue is known to the manufacturer.
  • The adjudicator reminded the customer that when something is considered a characteristic of a car, it cannot be classed as a fault.
  • However, the adjudicator acknowledged that the customer had submitted an excerpt from the vehicle owner’s manual, which shows how the component is supposed to operate.
  • Although the business and the manufacturer explained the operation of the component to be a characteristic of the vehicle, the fact that the lighting was not operating in line with the owner manual’s description indicated to the adjudicator that it was more likely than not that the component was faulty.
  • The adjudicator went on to state that if the business and the manufacturer were aware some models may experience these issues, and were a known characteristic, they should have advised each customer of this prior to the sale. This would have allowed the consumer to decide whether they still wished to continue with the purchase, or they could have negotiated a price reduction, for example.
  • A failure to notify the customer of a known characteristic is classed as a breach of The Motor Ombudsman’s Vehicle Sales Code.
  • The adjudicator could see that several attempts had been made to determine the cause of the fault and to remedy it.
  • In addition, the business had not disputed the issue remained unresolved, as no fix could be applied to make the component operate as illustrated in the manual.
  •  The adjudicator stated that the customer had purchased a brand new vehicle, and had every right not to expect it to experience issues so soon after buying it, or that there was no remedy to an issue.
  • In summary, based on the evidence available, the adjudicator determined that the business had breached The Motor Ombudsman’s Vehicle Sales Code when they failed to disclose the vehicle experienced a known characteristic.
  • In addition, the adjudicator concluded the evidence submitted supported the lighting component was not performing as it was designed to (according to the owner’s manual), so was therefore considered to be faulty.
  • Finally, the complaint was upheld in the customer’s favour, and the breach was serious enough to warrant a 5% price reduction in recognition of what had happened. This is because the customer had lost an opportunity to either withdraw from the purchase or negotiate a price reduction at the point of sale.
  • The vehicle order form showed the customer paid £16,269 for the vehicle. A 5% refund equated to £813.45. As a result, the adjudicator upheld the consumer’s complaint and awarded them this sum.


  • Both parties agreed with the adjudication outcome, and the business agreed to pay the customer £813.45 as recommended by the adjudicator, thereby closing the case.