Vehicle owner discrepancy

The consumer’s issue:

“I bought a used three-month-old 21-plate hatchback from a dealership in August 2021, and was informed by the salesperson that it only had one previous owner, i.e. that it had been used as a demonstrator vehicle by the business.
When the V5C documentation eventually arrived, there were in fact two previous owners as opposed to just one. I raised this with the salesperson by phone and e-mail, and they subsequently admitted there had been a mix-up, which resulted in the vehicle being sold at a another dealership before they received it. I was also informed that, despite the error, the value of the vehicle had risen since the purchase.

To resolve my issue, I asked for the car to be replaced with an identical one that only had one previous owner, or to be given financial compensation of £1,000. However, due to the supply of used cars being very limited, they could not source a replacement car identical to mine with just one previous owner. I was also told that financial compensation would also not be an option, as the value of the car had risen since I bought it. They offered a buy back arrangement, but would not get my previous car in return.

At the end of the day, I want what I paid for – an identical car to mine with one previous owner. I am understanding of the current market situation, so I am happy to accept financial compensation of £1,000 instead to bring my dispute to a close.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • When the customer enquired about buying the hatchback, there was another individual in the process of purchasing the car at another dealership. They made a demand that the vehicle was available for immediate delivery.
  • The car was taxed and registered in the other customer’s name as the new keeper and owner. However, the sale did not conclude and was cancelled.
    • The vehicle was then internally transferred to our branch, and was then sold to the complainant.
  • If we had a car on our forecourt that met the customer’s criteria of a like-for-like, we would have offered an exchange, but due to supply issues, this was not available to us.
  • We do not believe the additional owner on the V5C registration document has had any detrimental effect on the value of the vehicle and, as a result, the customer has not suffered any financial loss.
  • As a gesture of goodwill, we are prepared to offer the consumer the sum of £100 in full and final settlement.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator reviewed the evidence provided by both sides, and explained that, as both parties had already agreed there had been an additional owner on the vehicle than what was advertised at the point of sale, there was no need for further evidence to prove this point on the balance of probabilities.
  • The adjudicator highlighted that, whilst there had been no documentation to suggest that the business had intentionally hidden this information from the consumer, it still had an obligation to ensure that what was supplied to customer was up-to-date and correct.
  • The reason for this is because it had a significant impact on the consumer’s decision-making in purchasing the vehicle, as well as the valuation of the car at the point of sale. The adjudicator therefore found that the business had failed in its obligations towards the consumer.
  • As a result, there was a breach by the business of the Vehicle Sales Code and made the decision to uphold the case in the customer’s favour.
  • When it came to the nature of an award, the adjudicator detailed that, under such circumstances, it would not be appropriate nor proportionate to issue a refund of the vehicle, as it would leave the consumer without a vehicle due to them part-exchanging their previous vehicle as part of the sale.
  • A replacement car was also deemed to not be an appropriate remedy, as this was not feasible to source.
  • It was concluded that the award should be a percentage-based price reduction of the car, which resulted in a refund of £691 being awarded back to the consumer.
  • The business was also directed to issue the customer with a written apology based on the experience they had incurred.
  • The consumer was also reminded that The Motor Ombudsman does not compensate for losses that cannot be quantified or are not demonstrable.


  • Both the business and the consumer accepted the decision made by the adjudicator to uphold the consumer’s complaint, and the award of £691 and an apology. The case was then closed.