Persistent dog smell

The consumer’s issue:

“In February 2018, I purchased a 13-plate saloon from a dealership. When I first looked at the car, I noticed the presence of dog hair, and it smelled of dog as well. I agreed with the dealership that they would clean the car and, when I collected it, it smelled fine. However, about a week later, the odour returned, and I was also having issues with the clutch and the radio. I took the vehicle back to the dealership, and they repaired the clutch and sorted out the radio, but again, the smell remained. I let them try and clean the car four times in total, but nothing could get rid of it.

I asked if I could exchange the car, but I was told I’d lose £2,000 because it had gone down in value. Then, the business agreed to exchange the interior in full, but because of a change in management, this never happened. Eventually, due to my family’s allergies, I had to sell the car at a loss of £2,700, which I’d like the dealership to compensate me for.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We repaired the clutch and radio at no cost to the consumer.
  • The customer was aware that the car had been used for pet transport prior to the sale.
  • Several attempts were made by us to remove the dog smell from the vehicle.
  • The offer to replace the interior was made but, unfortunately, the manager involved at the time, left the business and did not pass any information on about the outstanding complaint. Also, because the car has been sold, we could no longer do this.
  • We would therefore be happy to offer the consumer £100 or a free valet for their current vehicle.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator remarked that the smell was acknowledged by the business, and was there at the point of sale. Nevertheless, this did not mean that the car was of unsatisfactory quality in accordance with the Consumers Rights Act 2015.
  • There was nothing to suggest that the consumer informed the seller that their family members were allergic to dog hair, or that they would have expected the car to be cleaned to a standard so that someone with allergies would not be affected.
  • In addition, no evidence was provided to show that the business had agreed to eradicate the smell completely or bring it to the level of smell that the consumer expected.
  • The adjudicator concluded that it would not be reasonable to expect that a car of this age, which was known to have had pets in it, would necessarily have no smell whatsoever.
  • It is considered reasonable when a person purchases a pre-owned car with dog hair all the way through it, which smelled strongly of dog, that some odours might remain in the fabric and the other interiors.
  • The consumer disagreed with the adjudicator’s conclusions, and requested an ombudsman’s final decision.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman came to a similar outcome to the adjudicator with respect to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • They highlighted that the test of satisfactory quality in relation to used cars is whether the vehicle is in the condition and of a standard which a reasonable person would consider acceptable given the cars age, history and mileage.
  • They also highlighted that a consumer does not have a right to reject a vehicle if the fault they are relying on was known to them at point of sale.
  • The consumer was under the impression that the car would be cleaned prior to their collection. From what the ombudsman could see, this was the case, and the car was cleaned several times.
  • However, the smell was clearly deeply seeded into the fabric, and there is a limitation on what cleaning can achieve.
  • With something like an animal smell, the ombudsman did not think it would be reasonable to assume that a simple clean would fix the entire issue.
  • The consumer pointed out the pet hair prior to sale and was aware the car was used for pets. Therefore, they ought to have reasonably known that there was the potential for the smell to persist.
  • As such, the ombudsman did not uphold the complaint, but asked the business to honour their goodwill offer of £100 or a free valet.


  • The consumer accepted the ombudsman’s final decision, and the case was closed.