When a person buys a second-hand vehicle from a dealer they will have certain rights under consumer law, specifically the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPR) and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SGA).
Under the CPR, the following business practices are deemed unfair if they prompted you to make a decision to buy the car in question:
• Giving false information about the vehicle or deceiving the buyer through false advertising
• Giving insufficient information to the buyer, for example leaving out important information about the condition of the car
Failure to adhere to the CPR rules will be unlawful and may even amount to a criminal offence so if you believe that the dealer acted in contravention of these rules you can bring this up with them when you contact them about this.
In addition, you will have certain rights under the SGA, which states that when you buy an item from a business seller it must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and match its description. If the car does not satisfy any of these, the dealer will be responsible.
They will only be liable for faults that were present at the time the vehicle was sold, even if they become apparent later on. However, they will not be liable for fair wear and tear, misuse or accidental damage or any issues that were brought to the buyer’s attention before the sale. The age and value of the vehicle will also be relevant and the expectations of older vehicles will certainly be lower.
If the vehicle does not meet the above requirements, the buyer can reject the vehicle and return it to the dealer requesting a refund. However, this will need to be done within a ‘reasonable period, which is usually 3-4 weeks after purchase.
If the buyer is too late to reject the vehicle, like in this case, they could instead request that it is repaired or replaced without causing them significant inconvenience. The dealer may only reject a repair or replacement if it is impossible or disproportionate in the circumstances. If that happens, you are entitled to get it repaired elsewhere and claim back the repair costs, although there is an obvious risk in doing so as there is no guarantee in getting any of the money back.
If the dealer refuses to resolve this issue or accept any liability, you could take legal action against them. However, before going down that route you should try and resolve the issue directly with them by sending them a formal letter specifying how you want this matter resolved and giving them 7 days to respond. Advise them that if they fail to get back to you or deal with this in a satisfactory manner, you will have no other option but to report them to Trading Standards and issue legal proceedings to seek compensation.