A COURT has rejected a dealer’s right to repair a fault and told him to pay £2750 to the customer.
It means that a dealer selling a car which breaks down has no automatic right to be consulted over the repair if the customer has it fixed elsewhere and charges the costs to the dealer, a court has ruled.
The case appears to challenge the accepted view that dealers should always be given the opportunity to assess and rectify any fault for which they are liable under the Sale of Goods Act in any vehicles they have sold.
‘Dealers need to take note of the implications of this hearing and consider amending their terms and conditions of sale’ says Car Dealer Magazine’s legal adviser Lucy Bonham Carter.
‘They need to have a clearly defined repair and returns policy or they potentially face significant financial loss’.
The case heard at Evesham court concerned a Land Rover Discovery sold by dealer Sean McGrath in March 2010 to private buyer, Garry Barnes.
Barnes, an accountant and company secretary for a midlands PLC, claimed the car suffered gearbox noise two weeks after purchase, but rather than contacting McGrath to ask him to fix it or even informing him of the fault, he had a replacement gearbox fitted with a local repairer at a cost of £2750.
The first the dealer McGrath heard of the gearbox failure was when he received a demand for payment three months later with a threat of court action under the Sale of Goods Act if he did not settle the bill.
The case proceeded to Evesham County Court where both parties represented themselves.
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District Judge Savage hearing the case accepted the honesty of all the parties and ruled that the car had broken down as Barnes had said and that the cost of the repair had been reasonable. ‘While Mr Barnes ought to have consulted the dealer first, as a member of the public he may not have known this and there is nothing in the Sale of Goods Act which requires him to do so’ said the judge.
Despite Barnes being unable to produce the old gearbox or a receipt for the purchase of the replacement gearbox Judge Savage ruled in favour of the claimant and ordered McGrath to pay him £2751.04 plus £443 costs.
McGrath sought to appeal the case on the grounds that it was well accepted practice and defined in the Office of Fair Trading’s guidance on the Sale of Goods Act that he should have a right to examine the vehicle and instruct his own repairers.
However leave to appeal was refused by Worcester court which said that McGrath’s “returns and repair” policy should have been defined at time of sale in his terms and conditions.
‘Very few dealers have any ‘returns or repair’ policy defined in their conditions of sale’ says Bonham Carter ‘and most people would assume that the first recourse of the customer would be to the dealer. But the court ruled in favour of the claimant on this and hence all dealers should take note and be seeking to make clear how any fault should be dealt with as part of their conditions of sale.’
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