Civil law

Car traders and the law

If you’ve bought a vehicle at an auction or from a private seller, you've limited comeback if you subsequently discover hidden faults. However, car traders are obliged by law to prepare cars properly before they’re offered for sale and must ensure that they're of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If they fail to do so, they can be liable for severe penalties; and you may well have grounds for seeking restitution or a refund.

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What are my rights when I buy a car from a motor trader?

Car dealers get a bad name in some quarters; but the fact is that most of them strive to offer reliable cars and decent customer service.

It’s very much in their interests to do so however, as the cars they sell are all covered by the Sale of Good Act or Consumer Rights Act, which means that Trading Standards Officers can and will get involved if complaints are made against a motor trader.

Broadly speaking, this important piece of legislation demands that any car you buy from someone in the motor trade must be:

  • Of satisfactory quality: This means that the vehicle must be of a standard that a reasonable person would expect, taking into account factors such as age, value, history, mileage, make, durability, safety and description. These factors should highlight any known defects.
  • Fit for purpose: This means that you must be able to use the vehicle for the purposes that you would normally expect from a vehicle, as well as any you specifically identified to the dealer, such as towing a caravan or motorway driving.
  • As described: This means that dealers must not make any representations about the vehicle that they know to be untrue, misleading or inaccurate.

Just as importantly, motor dealers are required to comply with the requirements of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This prohibits them from engaging in unfair business practices, such as:

  • Misleading action:  This means giving false information: either verbally, visually or in writing. For example, misrepresenting the vehicle's specification or history.
  • Misleading omissions:  Such as leaving out or hiding important information including history and mileage or failing to draw your attention to the key elements of any warranty.
  • Aggressive commercial practices:  Such as acting aggressively by using high pressure selling techniques to sell a vehicle or associated finance or warranty.
  • Unfair commercial practices:  This means failing to act in accordance with reasonable expectations of what's acceptable.
  • Commercial practices which are in all circumstances considered unfair:  Schedule 1 of the Regulations sets out 31 specific practices that are banned, including things like falsely claiming to be a signatory to an industry code of practice.

Importantly, there are very specific deadlines within these Acts and so the bringing of a complaint or action should be undertaken at the earliest opportunity.

While the law gives significant rights to consumers, we often advise clients to seek an amicable and swift resolution with a motor dealer before issuing proceedings or even involving Trading Standards.

The law holds motor dealers to extremely high standards, and there are severe legislative penalties for offences, including substantial fines and, in some cases, up to two year in prison.

With all that in mind, where an offence has clearly been committed, motor dealers are often keen to resolve any issues you have with a car purchase as opposed to forcing you to take legal action.

Our experienced dispute resolution solicitors can help you to resolve disputes with motor dealers where necessary.

To find out more, call us on 0161 830 9632 or contact us and we’ll be happy to call you.

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