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post #4 of (permalink) Old 12th October 2006
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From the watchdog website

Buying from a car dealer
The Sale of Goods Act (SGA) 1979 (as amended) is the statute which covers the sale whether it's a car, clothes or a toaster that you're buying.

When buying from a dealer, the law says that a car must be:

as described
of satisfactory quality
fit for the purpose

As described: this includes the history of the car as well as its specification. For example, if the dealer described the car as previously having 'one careful lady owner', it shouldn't turn out to have had several previous 'boy racer' owners.

Of satisfactory quality: Satisfactory quality (s14(2) SGA) it must meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as acceptable and be free from defects, except those which are specifically brought to the attention of the customer or, if the customer examines the car before the contract is made, those which the examination should have revealed. Also, bear in mind that a second-hand car will have a slightly different definition of what is considered 'satisfactory', because there's bound to be an element of wear and tear.

Fit for the purpose: (s14(3) SGA) it must be reasonably fit for any normal purpose and this includes any purpose that you specify to the seller.

If any of the above are breached, then in theory, you may have the right to reject the vehicle and get your money back if you're reasonably quick. Alternatively, the dealer might offer to replace or repair the car; reduce the price or offer a partial refund. Once you've informed the dealer that you wish to reject the car, you must cease to use the vehicle.

If the dealer or finance company (if bought on hire purchase), is disputing the rejection, then it's up to you to prove your case. You'll need to pay for an independent assessment of the car and sue for damages. If you do choose a repair, insist the dealer provides you with a hire car or pays any reasonable travelling expenses you incur while your new car is in the garage.

If the car is new, it's likely that the claim will be too high to be fought using the small claims procedure so you may have to pay for legal representation. All this can be pretty daunting and expensive. You need to weigh up the pros and cons before rejecting a car. Would a repair do just as well? Selecting a dealer who offers a no-quibbles exchange policy may help.

When choosing a dealer, find a well-established company with a good reputation. Check if the company belongs to a reputable trade association that operates according to a code of practice supported by the Office of Fair Trading.
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