Water-damaged battery

The consumer’s issue:

“In July 2021, I took out a lease on a brand new 21-plate SUV. In December of that year, I arranged a holiday to visit family, and travelled to my destination, which was over 100 miles away. During the vacation, I found that my vehicle would not start.

I contacted roadside assistance, and they recovered the vehicle to the local franchise dealership. After an investigation was carried out, I was informed that the fault was due to water damage to the battery, and the cost of repair (£766) would not be covered under warranty because the issue was due to external influence.

To resolve my complaint, I would like the manufacturer to cover the full cost of repairs under the terms of their warranty. Putting the battery under the car seats with no water protection is ridiculous. I would also like to be reimbursed for the cost of car hire, which I have had no option but to pay for, as I need a vehicle for work and to drop my children at school. This has amounted to £369 so far.

This is a very poor design fault from the manufacturer that they refuse to acknowledge, despite other customers saying the same thing as me online.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We received notification from a dealership in our network of a complaint regarding a faulty battery on an SUV.
  •  We investigated the matter, and the photos taken showed water staining down the back of the vehicle’s rear bench seat. It was determined that this had not been caused by a leak in the vehicle from where the damage was reported.
  • Due to the findings of water damage to the battery, we investigated other areas of the vehicle to verify if there were any other signs of water ingress and other vulnerable areas where water may have come from, but none were found.
  • We further noted that this model had no panoramic roof, and no water was found in the spare wheel well.
  • It is believed the failure resulted from something containing liquid, which has been dropped on the back seat, and has then caused the damage to the control unit.
  • As a result, the repairs could not be completed under warranty, as the origin of the failure was external influence.
  • No goodwill support has been offered towards the repairs, meaning the vehicle owner is liable for the full costs of repair.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator pointed out in their decision that the evidential burden was on the complainant to demonstrate that there was a fault with the vehicle, and that it occurred due to a manufacturing defect.
  • In terms of the evidence provided, images of the faulty battery were provided, but there was little to no indication as to what the cause of the problem was.
  • One of the images showed signs of a liquid stain on the seat’s material, which dried and left residue. In addition to the above, correspondence between the consumer and the business was provided but, once again, did not confirm the cause of the fault.
  • Therefore, the adjudicator was unable to agree that the fault was caused by a manufacturing defect – the only instance when coverage would be provided in terms of the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • With regards to the courtesy vehicle, the adjudicator explained that the consumer had no automatic right to a loan car or a contribution towards hiring charges while a car is undergoing warranty rectification work. As such, there was no breach of the New Car Code by the business for not providing a courtesy car.
  • Whilst the consumer was not happy with the design of the vehicle, the manufacturer’s warranty did not cover “design flaws” that customers are not happy with.
  • As a result, the adjudicator did not uphold the consumer’s complaint, as there was not enough evidence to show that there had been a breach of the New Car Code by the business. As such, the business was not obliged to refund the cost of the battery repair.


  •  The business agreed with the adjudication outcome. The consumer did not respond or provide any additional evidence in support of their complaint.
  • Due to no response received by the consumer within the timeframe required, the adjudicator proceeded to close the case.