A Warning to Car Dealers Closed for CoronavirusArticle Index
Car dealers and dealerships in general seem to be operating under the misapprehension that closing the dealership due to the coronavirus suspends customer rights under the Consumer Rights Act until the doors open again, as if Coronavirus trumps everything.
The only thing Boris said was that dealerships had to be closed to the public, and employees had to comply with social distancing, there was no mention of not being able to communicate with people over the phone, by Skype, or Zoom or email.
Of course, with the vast majority of vehicles sold on finance, and banks and finance companies remaining operational, customers have recourse through them and then onto the Financial Ombudsman if need be. However, be under no illusion that if motor traders do not play an active role in the complaints process, they cannot be surprised if the numbers of car rejections accepted by finance companies increase.
Bear in mind that the AA continues to attend breakdowns and while some customers will be unable to have their cars repaired, those who work for the NHS or are essential workers can, and there are any number of firms that are servicing that need.
Similarly, there is no prohibition for accepting vehicle rejections, issuing refunds and providing courtesy cars or hire cars.
In truth, by not maintaining contact and some sort of customer service department, dealers are leaving an ‘open goal’ for a court claim for the repair costs or worse, finding a county court judgment on the mat when they return home or bailiffs waiting to seize goods.
The idea that has been raised by some motor trade law firms that the court will frown upon claimants that issue proceedings in the current state of emergency, is, quite frankly, absurd, as is the idea that the lockdown is a valid reason for a judgment to be set aside, and the likelihood of the court looking favourably on dealers who have left NHS and key workers to fend for themselves.
In reality car retailers and dealers should already have a complaints process in place and if they haven’t, now’s the time to get one.
For starters, they should simply include an auto-response on emails and a notice on their website telling customers about how to raise complaints and concerns. One might then justifiably argue that there’s more time to deal with issues properly and lessen the risk of litigation.
The bottom line is coronavirus is not a way to bury bad news, and if dealers don’t comply or demonstrate an active intention to comply with their legal obligations, they will suffer the consequences.