The consumer’s issue:
“I purchased a set of shock absorbers from a dealership in 2016. They came with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty and I had them fitted at my own garage. However, the adjustable suspension remained stiff and I suspected there was a fault with the sensor on the shock absorber. So, I took the car to the dealership and paid for them to investigate this and carry out repairs.
Just under two years later, and after covering around 10,000 miles, a fault developed with the shock absorbers, so I went back to the dealership and asked them to have a look into this. They told me they’d found a couple of issues, and I authorised repairs into everything. However, when I collected the vehicle, I noticed on the drive home that the issue was still present. So, the car was booked in again with the dealership, and this time they told me that the shock absorbers had failed because they’d been fitted incorrectly. They said the incorrect installation had resulted in premature wear and failure, so the cost of the shock absorbers wasn’t covered under the two-year warranty. I also think the dealership damaged my anti-roll bar links.
The dealership had investigated the fitting of the shock absorbers when they were first installed, and hadn’t raised any issues, so I was unhappy with this explanation. The part failed prematurely so they should be covered under warranty. The dealership also mis-diagnosed the fault in 2018 and charged me for repairs that weren’t necessary. I’d like a refund of this amount and I’d also like them to provide a new set of shock absorbers free of charge.”
The accredited business’ response:
- We investigated the consumer’s complaint and dispute the allegations that have been made.
- We believe the shock absorbers failed prematurely due to the consumer’s garage fitting them incorrectly, so the parts wouldn’t be covered under warranty.
- The customer complained about us damaging the anti-roll bar links, but these had perished and worn over the service life of the vehicle and we disagree that we caused any damage.
- We did offer as a gesture of goodwill to assist with repairs, but the consumer declined this.
- We don’t believe we are responsible for the position that the consumer finds themselves in.
The adjudication outcome:
- The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator reviewed the information provided by both parties and partially upheld the complaint in the consumer’s favour.
- She didn’t think the dealership had caused damage to the shock absorber because it was the consumer that had the responsibility for fitting them.
- There was also an invoice dating back to 2016 which showed there was an issue with them prior to the dealership’s repair in 2018.
- The adjudicator also didn’t believe the dealership had caused damage to the anti-roll bar link. She said the car was over 10 years old and it was normal for anti-roll bar links to wear over time.
- However, the adjudicator did agree that when the vehicle was returned to the dealership in 2018, they’d charged the consumer for a repair that wasn’t carried out. So, she recommended a partial refund of £87.50 which was the cost charged for this work.
- The consumer disagreed with the adjudicator’s decision and asked for the case to be looked into by an ombudsman.
The ombudsman’s final decision:
- The ombudsman reviewed the complaint and, although she also partially upheld it, she made a different award to the adjudicator.
- She said the shock absorbers had been purchased new at the dealership. So irrespective of whether they came with a warranty, the dealership had an obligation to supply a part that was of satisfactory quality, and this included durability.
- She said the shock absorbers had failed within two years of purchase and having only covered 3,500 miles. In fact, the dealership had agreed that they had failed prematurely, so this implied that they were not of satisfactory quality.
- However, the ombudsman noted there was a dispute regarding the underlying cause of failure and whether they’d failed due to a manufacturing defect or as a result of consumer’s own doing.
- She highlighted that in 2016, approximately three weeks after fitting the shock absorbers, the consumer had returned to the dealership and had asked them to investigate the adjustable suspension staying stiff and there possibly being a fault with the sensors.
- She said the dealership was aware the shock absorbers had been fitted at the consumer’s garage and went on to investigate their concerns and carried out a number of repairs costing in excess of £600.
- The ombudsman remarked that there was no mention that the shock absorbers had been fitted incorrectly when they were investigated in 2016. It also took two return visits to the dealership in 2018 before they concluded that that the failure was due to incorrect fitment.
- She went on to say that it was reasonable for the dealership to have investigated whether or not the shock absorbers had been fitted correctly during the visit in 2016. Therefore, they either failed to exercise reasonable care and skill by failing to accurately diagnose the fault at the time, or the shock absorbers had failed prematurely due to an inherent manufacturing defect.
- The ombudsman concluded that there was no evidence of the parts having been fitted incorrectly so, it was more likely than not that they’d failed prematurely due to a manufacturing defect. Therefore, she said their replacement should’ve been covered under warranty at the time.
- As a result, she recommended that the dealership supply a new set of shock absorbers free of charge or refund what the consumer had paid for them in 2016.
- The ombudsman also found that when the car was first returned to the dealership in 2018, they had misdiagnosed the fault with the shock absorbers, and this had resulted in unnecessary repairs being completed. The consumer had been charged £175 for these repairs, so she recommended that this amount be refunded back to the consumer.
- However, the ombudsman didn’t believe that the anti-roll bar link had been damaged by the dealership. She said this was a 10-year-old car with a fair amount of mileage, so wear and tear was to be reasonably expected, and could therefore not uphold this point.
- In conclusion, the ombudsman partially upheld the complaint and awarded the consumer £175 and a refund of the cost of the shock absorbers in 2016.
- Both parties agreed with the final decision, with the consumer accepting the offer of supplying a new set of shock absorbers free of charge and a refund of £175 for the unnecessary repair.