New and Used Car Complaints – 2020 VisionArticle Index
The decline in UK car sales and contraction in the retail motor industry has been blamed on Brexit; but who’s to blame for the increase in consumer complaints and car rejection claims?
Car dealers and dealerships will invariably point the finger at unreasonable customer expectations, fickle finance companies and the law being stacked against them, while franchise and manufacturer dealer groups will do the “board room shuffle” and send staff on motor trade law, customer service and complaints handling training courses.
However, the problem is fundamentally a misinterpretation and misapplication of the customer’s statutory rights and therefore the retailer’s obligations. Put simply, firms are acting on poor and, in some cases, entirely wrong advice.
On the one hand, it seems incredible that so many get it wrong but on the other, understandable, given that the legislation is not specific to vehicle sales and repairs but intended to apply to the vast majority of goods and services sold.
Consequently, it stands to reason that your lawyer, solicitor, finance company and/or training company should have a good working knowledge of the vehicles and the automotive industry, simply because of the need to contextualise the facts and apply them to the law. The truth is, they don’t, exemplified by a wide range of incorrect responses to technical questions, including believing that a big end bearing is “a ball bearing.”
This is amplified by a misunderstanding of who the parties to a contract are, a major German car finance company suggested the regulated finance agreement was a “tripartite contract,” lawyer(s) and cases involving vehicles sold in finance being accepted by the Motor Ombudsman.
Then, of course, there’s the law itself. The majority of advisors and therefore dealers are focussed on the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which according to Google is as easy as ABC to understand, but in doing so they are oblivious to the vast array of other laws which apply to car sales and repairs. This was evident during a motor trade law training symposium for a car manufacturer, where it became apparent that some senior members of staff had never heard of the Road Traffic Act, Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading, Cancellation Rights or, let alone Consumer Protection, applying to them. Worse than that, it transpired that some of their practise breached the regulations.
If there is an overriding lesson from 2019, it is that firms were trying to look at ways to circumvent the law, or elicit customer acceptance, rather than considering the purpose of the legislation and the problems it is intended to prevent. In so doing, a high proportion of complaints follow the well-worn mantra of “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Which is, of course, is closely aligned with the definition of insanity.
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