Where do I stand over problems with new car?

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Have your say

Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I bought a car at the end of July with a 30-day warranty. I spotted some problems on the test drive which the dealer agreed to sort out. Subsequently, other serious problems have come to light, including a defective gearbox which the garage has refused to fix. I’ve told them to take the car back, but they’ve sent me a solicitor’s letter saying I don’t have a leg to stand on. Can you help please?

GW (e-mail)

A I’ve been flooded with readers’ car complaints recently, but I’ve no hesitation in saying this is one of the worst I’ve come across for some time.

As I understand it, so serious were the defects with the car the garage kept it for the first month claiming they were carrying out repairs. When you rightly complained about that, they finally told you they weren’t going to fix the faults because the warranty had run out.

To add insult to injury, the finance company who fell over themselves to lend you the money to buy it responded with deafening silence when you asked them for help to get it sorted.

But however stressful, now is not the time to panic just because you’ve been given a smoke and mirrors job by a law firm. They know most people are terrified at the very thought of anything to do with the law, and will immediately capitulate at the sight of a letter claiming their client only plays it by the book.

The law says anything you buy – even if it’s previously owned – must be of satisfactory quality taking into account the price paid. In layman’s parlance that means a used car should represent value for money and be free from serious defects.

Provided you complain promptly, you have the legal right to reject goods that do not come up to scratch and obtain a refund. This still remains your right, even if anyone tries to convince you otherwise.

Q My son ordered two concert tickets from an online retailer and has since discovered the gig has been cancelled. He’s asked for his money back but the retailer says he’s not entitled to a refund, only a credit note. The small print on the website does say that they won’t be responsible for cancellations, postponements, or changes in the event timing and dates, but this isn’t flagged up when you buy the tickets. Surely he must be entitled to something back?

JRS (e-mail)

A Yes, indeed. He’s entitled to a refund of all his money and doesn’t have to accept a credit note, if he doesn’t want one.

The law also makes it very clear that he can’t be held to the terms of a deal he didn’t know about in the first place.

It may also be an unfair trading offence to lead him up the garden path claiming he has no right to a refund, when that is patently not so. I suggest you ring your local CAB and ask to get trading standards on the case.


Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at richardjthomson1@sky.com and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.