Car buyers still in the dark about their 'right to reject'

Published 23 December 2016

Many car buyers still don’t recognise their ‘right to reject’ a new or used car within six months, despite the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act in 2015.

The act came into effect in October last year, replacing the Sale of Goods Act. At the time it was reported that a third of people hadn't even heard of it. Judging by the number of questions we receive on a daily basis about returning faulty or not-as-advertised cars, it appears that many buyers are still not aware of where they stand.

The relatively new act was intended to simplify and modernise the law, with an aim to make shopping rights clearer for consumers. Much like the Sale of Goods Act, a product must be of satisfactory quality, as advertised and fit for purpose.

What does the law mean for you as a consumer?

As a consumer it means that your rights to return faulty or wrongfully advertised products for refunds, repairs and replacements are stronger than ever before.

This law applies to any product bought within the UK, however it is of particular interest to car buyers because they are significantly more financially impacted when they purchase a car and then things go wrong.

What qualifies as a reason to reject a vehicle?

You only retain the right to reject the car if there is something fundamentally wrong with the vehicle. This includes faults that were present when you bought the car or if it was received in a condition that does not match what you were told within six months after the date of purchase.

What happens if something goes wrong within 30 days of purchase?

A clause of this law, ‘the early right to reject’, states that you have a legal right to reject any goods that do not meet the specified standards within 30 days for a full refund.

After the first 30 days, within six months of the sale, the manufacturer has one opportunity to replace or repair the item before you are entitled to a full or part refund.

>>See the latest questions people have been asking HJ about consumer rights

What steps should you take if something does go wrong?

If you do purchase a vehicle that was faulty when it was bought, or if it is not as was advertised then the best course of action is to contact the dealer or individual who sold you the car. If it's a new car, the dealer will likely contact the manufacturer in question. The dealer does not owe you an immediate refund and it is advisable to maintain a good relationship with them until the cause of the issue is discovered.

If this does not work then, under the Consumer Rights Act, disputes can also be solved more quickly and cheaply than before through the Alternative Dispute Resolution. Options like an Ombudsman, rather than going through the courts, have now been put into place. However, this is the last step to take as it requires legal action.

Does the Consumer Rights Act apply to the purchase of used cars?

Yes, regardless of whether it was bought from a dealership or an individual.

If there is a problem with your used car soon after you bought it - and it is not to be expected based on age or mileage - then you are entitled to a free repair or replacement as long as it is within 30 days.

Often the cost of a replacement will be disproportionate, so it will usually be a repair. If the car was bought from a dealer, and the fault was not stated to you, then you have the right to claim against them for breach of contract. If the car was not as descibed then this would fall under misrepresentation and also allows a claim to be made.

When buying privately you have fewer rights because certain parts of the Consumer Rights Act do not apply. For example, the car does not have to be in a satisfactory quality or fit for purpose. However, the seller must accurately describe the car, such as the number of previous owners. They must also not misrepresent it, for example not disclosing that it has been involved in an accident.  

During the first six months it then becomes the responsibility of the seller to prove that the problem wasn't there when they sold it, rather than it being up to the buyer to prove that is was there.

Had problems after you've bought a car? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below.


   on 22 December 2016

I purchased a car on eBay once and the gearbox exploded on me as I drove home. The seller blamed me for over revving. I was young and naive to my options available, after an emotional exchange I had to suck it up and buy another. I have brought a new car now specifically for my bad experiences over used so I am happy to have found this article for future.. thanks!

   on 22 December 2016

Thanks to the fantastic advise on this site I returned a used car within 30 days for a full refund. The car displayed a repeated fault and I decided to return it.

martin.waterhouse    on 3 January 2017

The Consumer Rights Act reads well but why isn't the garage where my daughter bought a ex mobility 3 year old car with faulty brakes and steering refusing to pay for the repairs ?

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