The consumer’s issue:
“My vehicle suffered a steering fault which was declined for repair under my warranty policy. I was asked to make an upfront payment of nearly £3,500 to cover the costs before the work could be started. I refused to pay this amount and lodged a complaint, following which the claim was accepted.
I am therefore looking for a comprehensive review of the fault so that I can understand how the claim went from being declined to being approved. Had I not complained, I would have forked out £3,500, and I would like a written assurance that the vehicle is now safe to use following the repair, as well as an apology for the lack of customer service.
I also feel I should be compensated for the replacement vehicle I had to pay for, and for my time wasted dealing with the complaint.”
The accredited business’ response:
- Although the experience is far from ideal, you will see the e-mails from our Aftersales Manager that we have followed the correct diagnosis procedure and kept the customer informed at all times throughout the process.
- On initial inspection, we followed the manufacturer’s test guidelines, which advised that, if there was an outside influence, such as damage to the wheel, then this would not be covered under the warranty, and replacement would be required.
- We advised all along that we would continue to liaise with the manufacturer for a suitable resolution.
- Without authority from the vehicle manufacturer to proceed with the repair under warranty, we were unable to provide a courtesy car for an open-ended period, but continued to work with the manufacturer for a solution.
- Following a number of exchanges of information with the manufacturer, it was clear that replacement might not be necessary, and although there was damage on the wheel, it had not been the root cause of the steering failure and the component was mechanically sound.
- This allowed us to carry out a repair under the warranty according to the guidance of the manufacturer.
- The customer’s request for car hire compensation was based on a hypothetical cost of rental, but no actual vehicle hire took place.
- We noted that the cost of car hire was listed as £995 in one communication and £1,200 in a subsequent e-mail. We are very sorry the customer was inconvenienced and would always look to avoid this where we can, but we are unable to look at paying compensation for the vehicle being off the road for a week.
The adjudication outcome:
- The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator noted that the obligation of the business is to meet the standard of care that the Code of Practice and legislation expect when performing an assessment of the vehicle. That is the care and skill of a reasonably skilled tradesman.
- If the care is below standard, the business may be liable for any costs associated with that breach of the Code.
- The adjudicator noted that there was no evidence that their assessment was wrong, or was indeed below that standard.
- The business had noticed evidence, which was either a result of the failure or the cause, and due to this, they were right to determine that the warranty might not cover the repair.
- The adjudicator concluded that, where the business went wrong, was to presume that the work would not be covered under the warranty, to stop the investigation and request that the consumer paid for the repair.
- This is in breach of The Motor Ombudsman’s Code of Practice for Service and Repair. A business should only ask to have signed job cards accepting liability for the investigation into the true cause, and make the decision on whether the repair should be covered under the warranty based on the outcome.
- The adjudicator therefore suggested that the repairer’s procedures need to be amended to meet the expectations of the Code of Practice.
- The adjudicator added that, if a consumer has concerns about their vehicle’s suitability for the road, they should seek a second opinion to reinforce such an allegation.
- However, as a suitable repair had been undertaken, it is presumed that a vehicle is returned to its roadworthy condition. The business may write a notice on the job cards to this effect if the consumer so wishes.
- Simply due to work being necessary does not give a customer the automatic entitlement to be kept mobile, nor to be reimbursed if their car cannot be used.
- What the adjudicator did consider was that, if due to the business’ breach of the Code, the consumer had incurred a cost (e.g. they tried to charge the consumer upfront so they had the vehicle recovered to another dealership for a second opinion). Claims that The Motor Ombudsman could not consider were those in relation to a loss of time, inconvenience or stress.
- Therefore, when deeming what award to recommend in this case, the adjudicator determined that an apology was necessary as the Service and Repair Code was breached.
- The customer was left at a disadvantage and distressed, but the Ombudsman could not attribute a monetary amount, and the business was therefore advised to consider a gesture of goodwill.
- The adjudicator also made a formal recommendation that the business changes its procedures to ensure that no future breach of the Code of Practice occurred.
- Both parties accepted The Motor Ombudsman’s adjudication outcome, and the necessary changes to internal procedures were made by the business within the prescribed 30-day period.