Freeborn Garages’ Citroen dealership in Southampton, Hampshire, sold the Rev Carl Chambers an ex-demonstrator C4 Picasso.
But after 16 months the car broke down in the middle of a family holiday in France, forcing Chambers to spend hundreds of pounds to get home.
The car was picked up by Citroen’s breakdown service where it was discovered the gearbox selector had broken and would take weeks to fix.
Chambers asked for a hire car from Citroen but they refused. Instead, he had to pay to hire a car for the rest of the holiday, fly himself and his family home, hire another car in the UK, then fly back to France to drive the original car back once the problem was fixed.
He had spent around £600 on hire cars alone – with flights and other costs on top.
Citroen paid for the repairs but refused to cover all the extra costs, arguing they weren’t liable because he didn’t have the extended warranty and breakdown insurance.
Chambers decided to use the 1979 Sales of Goods Act to get compensation.
Speaking on the BBC consumer rights show, Watchdog, Chambers said: ‘The Sale of Goods Act gives great power to consumers, who I don’t think know quite how powerful it is.
‘I like to think I am mild mannered person but I do believe in justice.’
Brighton county court ruled in his favour for consequential losses and Chambers received £1,345.16 in compensation.
Fit for purpose
The Sales of Goods Act states any goods sold must be of satisfactory quality and also reasonably fit for purpose. The contract of goods is between the seller and the buyer – and not the manufacturer.
So in the case of a car, the garage that sold the car is responsible.
The act crucially also states: ‘The product you brought must remain of satisfactory quality for a reasonable amount of time, whatever the length of the warranty.’
Watchdog interviewee Mark Weston, a commercial lawyer, explained that for a new or ex-demo car, at least two years of the car performing satisfactorily would be considered reasonable.
‘I had no idea how powerful the Sale of Goods Act was,’ said Weston. ‘I certainly think more people should know about it.’
Freeborn Garages said in a statement to Watchdog: ‘As a responsible dealer it would always comply with all current UK legislation as confirmed by its action in this case.’
Car Dealer Club’s legal firm Lawgistics told us: ‘Consequential losses consist of any money that flow from the original problem, as long as they are reasonable and foreseeable.
‘The court would look to see if a customer has contacted a dealer to report any problems and make an attempt to protect himself from these losses. If they do so and the dealer does not or cannot help, then the dealer will be liable for these costs.
‘It has happened in the past that a dealer in the UK, faced with a similar problem, sent a part over to France so the car could be fixed ASAP, saving themselves from these consequential losses.’