The consumer’s issue:
“I bought a brand new car in March 2017. The information on the manufacturer’s website showed a touchscreen console and integrated navigation system. However, when my car was delivered, I found it didn’t have this feature, and it also didn’t integrate the parking sensors fully as I had expected. The reason I bought the car without visiting the showroom was so that I could get my order in before the tax changes in April 2017. If I’d been given clearer information, I would have bought the next model up so the features would have been included. I made a proposal to the dealership in order to resolve the situation, but this was not accepted. I am therefore looking for an award so that I won’t be affected by the fact that tax is now higher than it was in April.”
The accredited business’ response:
- We originally agreed to swap the vehicle at no cost to the consumer, and to cover the GAP insurance and road tax for two years.
- We were also willing to transfer the service plan, but this was refused by the customer.
- We then considered a used model swap but there was no suitable stock to do this.
- Our current offer is either a buyback at £8,200 with a refund of the GAP insurance and service plan or a one-off payment of £1,000.
The adjudication outcome:
- The adjudicator upheld the customer’s complaint as he felt that the advertising was misleading.
- He then gave the parties two options: either the consumer could reject the vehicle minus a deduction for use, or he could accept the payment as a contribution to future tax costs if he were to change the car.
- The adjudicator believed a replacement would be reasonable, but was deemed impractical due to a lack of availability.
- The consumer did not agree with any of the options outlined and asked for the case to be reviewed by the ombudsman.
The ombudsman’s final decision:
- The ombudsman found this case wasn’t really about the advertising, as all parties accepted that this was misleading, but was more a case about the fairest way to put things right.
- She thought the most practical and fairest remedy was that which was originally offered.
- Unfortunately, this was no longer viable, as the consumer could not be given a brand new car in replacement as he had use of it for some months, and there were no used ones in stock.
- A refund for the car also presented problems as the consumer would either have to buy a used one to benefit from the lower tax, which appeared to be difficult, or would have to weather the additional tax for the duration of his ownership.
- As such, it was felt that a partial refund was the most proportionate way forwards and the ombudsman recommended a payment of £2,500 to the customer by the dealership based on the previous goodwill offers and the law in this area.
- The consumer was awarded £2,500 which he accepted, making the ombudsman’s decision binding on both parties.