The motorist’s position was considerably strengthened last March (*EU Sale of
Goods Directive 1999/44/EC) when the burden of proof was shifted squarely onto
the shoulders of the dealer during the crucial first six months of ownership.
However, researchers found that the majority of people simply had no knowledge
of the change. The new regulations mean the dealer must prove beyond doubt that
the vehicle was of ‘satisfactory quality’ and not bearing an ‘inherent fault’
at the time of sale.
“Unfortunately, there is no exact definition of the term ‘satisfactory
quality’, but the law provides the consumer with a significant level of
protection,” explains Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct.
“However, too few realise how strong a position they are in if things do
go wrong with the vehicle.”
Although under no obligation to inform the customer of their rights, the survey
also found that only 1 in 10 car dealers explained the new level of protection
automatically afforded to them.
“Despite the revisions to the Act last year, the onus is still very much
on the car buyer to know where they stand,” says McClure Fisher.
Analysis of a sample of vehicles aged 3-5 years by Warranty Direct shows that
17.1 percent will report a failure in the first six months on average. Yet McClure
Fisher warns that people must temper how they define ‘satisfactory quality’.
“You need to consider a variety of factors: whether you are buying a low
or high mileage car, whether it has been regularly serviced or not, and if the
price being asked by the dealer reflects the condition of the vehicle. In other
words, the brakes will become worn in time, but you would not expect the engine
to blow in the first couple of months.”
From Warranty Direct analysis, one in five of the vehicles that required remedial
work within the first three months of ownership experienced axle and suspension
problems. In the first month alone, electrical and coolant gremlins accounted
for 13 and 11 percent of failures, respectively.
With the British used market worth £32bn annually, Warranty Direct advises
motorists to become familiar with the regulations and understand the true
extent of their rights before they buy. Where possible, the firm actively
assists the car owner to purse the selling dealer for any inherent faults under
the Sale of Goods Act.
However, if you are having difficulty resolving a dispute with the selling
dealer, there are several agencies designed to help. Firstly, consumers can
visit their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau www.citizensadvice.org.uk, who
will be able to advise on what your rights are and suggest the best course of
action. If the response from the seller remains unsatisfactory, you can report
them to their local Trading Standards office. Visit www.tradingstandards.gov.uk for