Repeated V-belt and alternator failures

The consumer’s issue:

“In 2015, I purchased a car through the assistance of a finance agreement. In June 2017, I took my car to the business for an MOT. The car failed its MOT, and I was told that it needed a number of repairs costing over £600. I felt pressured into authorising them, but I later found out that some of the repairs could have been covered under my extended warranty agreement. Five months later, the car broke down again as the repair had failed, and this time, the work was covered under the parts warranty. This actually happened again around eight months after the last breakdown, and repairs were carried out under the warranty. The business never offered me a courtesy car, and I am seeking a refund of the money I paid for the initial repair and the subsequent costs incurred as a result of the breakdown, which I believe was down to poor workmanship. I am looking to reject the car as I believe that it isn’t of satisfactory quality.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • The car did not pass the MOT, and we informed the consumer that the drive and V-belts needed replacing. She authorised the repairs and was aware of the costs involved. She only made us aware of the warranty once the repairs had been completed and it was too late to submit a claim.
  • Five months later, the V-belt failed and the work was completed under the parts warranty.
  • The alternator also stopped working, but repairs were undertaken as a goodwill gesture despite there being no evidence that this was related to the previous repairs by the business.
  • Eight months later, the alternator failed, and the alternator and belts were replaced under warranty.
  • We have not seen the car since the last repair was completed, and do not accept that we have done anything wrong.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator didn’t uphold the consumer’s complaint. She said that there was no evidence to suggest that the vehicle was pressured into authorising repairs, and that it was her responsibility to mention the warranty.
  • The business hadn’t had sight of the car since the last repairs, so there was no indication of an ongoing fault.
  • The adjudicator said that, due to the time passed and mileage covered, it was the consumer’s responsibility to show that the car was faulty at the time of sale.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman agreed with the adjudicator that there was no evidence to show a fault had been present, or that it was developing when the car was sold.
  • She also agreed that it was the consumer’s responsibility to make the business aware about the existence of a warranty.
  • The ombudsman explained that the vehicle hadn’t been taken to the selling business for repairs, and therefore, the repairing dealer wouldn’t have had any reason to believe that the consumer had a warranty in place.
  • However, the ombudsman focused on the rectification work that was completed. She noted that the drive belt and V-belt were replaced, and five months later, the part had failed and needed to be exchanged again.
  • The ombudsman equally noted that the consumer had been left without a vehicle for quite a long time while this repair was being completed, and no courtesy car offered to keep them mobile.
  • Four days after this second repair, the alternator had failed and, whilst the business had completed the repair as a gesture of goodwill, the ombudsman remarked that the V-belt did impact the operation of the alternator and concluded that it was more likely than not that the alternator had failed either due to the workmanship of the business, or due to the failed V-belt which they had fitted.
  • The alternator again failed around eight months after this repair, which was covered under warranty. However, the consumer incurred costs as a result of this issue, and was again left with no courtesy car for a lengthy period of time.
  • The ombudsman partially upheld the customer’s complaint and concluded that the business was responsible for the work they carried out and the parts they fitted to the car.
  • The V-belt and alternator failures were the direct result of the repairs the business had completed, and they should have offered the consumer a courtesy car to keep her mobile.
  • As this was not done, the ombudsman recommended that the business refunded the consumer the equivalent of two months’ worth of finance payments on the car, as well as accommodation costs as a result of having had to stay in a hotel due to the car breakdown.
  • The ombudsman’s final decision was accepted by both parties, and the case was closed.