Our Carioca motorhome was to be supplied with the wrong upholstery and by rejecting it we are in breach of contract. Why?

At a recent show, we paid £1000 deposit on a Carioca 746 Motorhome on 16 October 2009 at a price of £40,000 (plus extras of approximately £2000). The van was the latest Carioca 746 model and had green/cream vertical panelled upholstery, identical to that in the 2009 brochure for Carioca models. This was to be our retirement dream. Our current Motorhome was to be taken in part-exchange for £15,000. When we arrived at the dealers on 23 October to conclude the purchase, the Motorhome presented had completely different interior furnishings with two clashing design patterns. Only the two front cab seats had the original upholstery - the the rest of the van was furnished in an orange and khaki geometric pattern which was totally abhorrent to us and rendered the van sub-standard. We never possessed the van or took it for a test drive.

We refused to accept the vehicle and asked for the upholstery to be re-instated. The dealers refused unless we paid a further £950. We asked for the vehicle to be as we had agreed to purchase or the refund of our £1,000. Nowhere on the one piece of paper (Sales Order) is this defect mentioned. The dealers informed us that in order to cancel the contract we must pay a further £4000 - thus giving them £5000 for nothing. We pointed out we were not cancelling but invoking the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

The dealers then turned the issue over to their solicitors who sent us a series of threatening letters over Christmas 2009. In despair we claimed our £1000 back in the Small Claims Court. The dealers responded by counter-claiming for £42,000 and transferred the case to the County Court. Subsequently the dealers sold the Motorhome, without consulting us, for £32,000 (probably its true value) and are still pursuing us for £8000 plus legal costs in court.

We thought we were covered by the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Contracts Act and the Consumer protection for Contracts in a persons Home, Place of Work or on an Excursion (the Show) - but it appears none of this consumer protection applies if you go to a Caravan and Motorhome Show. What is the legal position with these shows? What are our chances of getting justice?

Asked on 11 September 2010 by Motorhomemug

Answered by Honest John
As I replied to a reader in the paper today, this situation is covered by the County Court ruling in Johnson v HWM Ltd 17-3-1997 Kingston County Court. It allows an indefinite delivery date for a new car and also change of specification of the car in between dealer order and manufacturer delivering the car to the dealer because both are out of control of the dealer. If a contract has been entered into between dealer and customer with a substantial deposit, then that contact remains binding and, unless specified in the original contract, an indefinite delivery date or change of specification are not breaches of contract. This has been in the FAQ answer: www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/consumer-rights for years, so, had you consulted this first, you could have paid the £950 to get the upholstery as you wanted it and would not be in the mess you are in.
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