The consumer’s issue:
“I purchased a used ’15-plate vehicle from the accredited business in July 2017 with 73,687 miles on the clock. I was told it came with a 12-month ‘bumper-to-bumper’ warranty for all mechanical and electrical failures. However, I noticed a problem with the gearbox, and when I took it in for a diagnosis of the fault, I was told that the gearbox issue wasn’t covered because the gearbox oil change had not been completed by the previous owner, and I would therefore have to pay for the repair. The vehicle eventually broke down in Germany and I had to have it repatriated to the UK. I complained to the accredited business, but they told me they couldn’t help. If I had known the gearbox wouldn’t be covered, I wouldn’t have bought the car.”
The accredited business’ response:
- We have not seen the vehicle since it was purchased from us in 2017.
- We recognise that a gearbox oil change was missed, and that there was a gap in the service history, which would cause an issue with the extended warranty claim.
- However, the warranty has now expired and we did not see the car, so had no control over the outcome.
- For a full investigation to be successful, we would need to investigate this with all of the other parties concerned.
The adjudication outcome:
- The adjudicator upheld the consumer’s complaint because he felt that the lack of servicing of the gearbox led to the vehicle not being sufficiently durable.
- He also believed that the 12-month guarantee would give a consumer more confidence in their purchase, which would have affected their decision to buy the car.
- As such, the adjudicator awarded the consumer the full cost of repairs.
- However, because the accredited business had not seen the vehicle since the point of sale, they did not see how they could be liable and asked for the complaint to be referred to the ombudsman.
The ombudsman’s final decision:
- The ombudsman also upheld the customer’s complaint because she agreed with the adjudicator’s reasoning that the vehicle was in breach of the requirements of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and, consequently, the Vehicle Sales Code.
- She recognised that, because the consumer lived around an hour and a half away from the accredited business, it was understandable that she chose a dealership nearer to where she lived.
- The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says repairs must be carried out within a reasonable period of time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer. Here, the customer lived a 50-minute round trip away from her nearest dealership, whereas going back to the business meant a 3.5-hour round trip. The ombudsman therefore felt that the consumer should be allowed to have the repair done locally.
- The ombudsman understood that the vehicle had covered a significant amount of mileage both before the sale and during the consumer’s ownership, but concluded it was likely the missed service had at least contributed to the failure, and resulted in the consumer being unable to claim under their warranty policy.
- The ombudsman also recommended to the accredited business, that when promoting a warranty, it would actually cover the main components of the vehicle. In this instance, the accredited business should have fully checked the service history so they could have advised the warranty may be affected.
- The ombudsman, however, recognised that the consumer should also have had a gearbox oil change during their ownership of the vehicle.
- As such, the ombudsman awarded the consumer a free of charge repair, and a £200 contribution towards the costs of repatriating the vehicle, if the consumer could provide the required evidence that the gearbox oil change was carried out at the correct mileage whilst she was the owner.
- The ombudsman felt this was important as, if that hadn’t been carried out, the failure was more likely due to this than the missed oil service some 80,000 miles earlier.
- The award was therefore conditional on this supporting documentation being provided by the customer.
- The accredited business was found to be in breach of the Vehicle Sales Code and was asked to pay for the repair and contribute £200 towards the customer’s transportation costs.