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Where do I stand legally with a dealer I bought a classic car from?

I bought a 1991 Roller from a dealer a couple of hours or so journey from me. On test drive the aircon was not blowing cold, so the dealer said he'd get it regassed, because apparently "these old systems only stay blowing cold for a year". After a fortnight, not only was it not blowing cold, it's blowing warm and smelling like hot oil through the vents. Trouble is, there were a number of other issues I've noticed with the car since having it for that two weeks, which I've had repaired with specialists more local to me, (brake fluid spewing out underneath/alternator grinding/unroadworthy tyres & more). On reflection I should've contacted the dealer in the first place, but I didn't realise how long the growing list of faults would get. So he can now claim my specialists have interfered. But the climate control issue was the final straw and it's all a right mess. Please, where do I stand and how should I progress?

Asked on 3 September 2019 by JimmyB

Answered by Keith Moody
We spoke to David Stedman at solicitors Clarke Willmott. David, said, 'This reader finds himself in a common situation. He has purchased what he hoped was a dream car only to discover that not all is as it seemed.
'The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“the Act”) marked a significant change to existing consumer protection laws and sets out the required standards that goods, such as a classic car, must conform to. Goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. Although expert evidence may be required to establish the facts, leaking brake fluid, non-roadworthy tires, a grinding alternator and faulty air-conditioning may all mean that a vehicle is not fit for purpose or not of satisfactory quality if they were not brought to the buyer’s attention. It is important to remember that what constitutes “satisfactory quality” for a classic car can be hard to decide and will vary depending on the facts. For example, a consumer paying £150,000 for a Jaguar XK150 described as being in “concours condition” can reasonably expect it to be of far greater quality than a similar car sold for £30,000 and described as a “restoration project”. The price paid for the ’91 Roller may be relevant to whether it is of satisfactory quality or not.

'On the assumption that the ’91 Roller was not of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose, then the reader is entitled to a remedy under the Act. Remedies can include rejecting the ’91 Roller, having the ’91 Roller repaired or replaced or getting a refund. I explain these remedies in more detail in my article “Purchasing a classic car: when things backfire” which can be found at www.clarkewillmott.com/news/purchasing-a-classic-c.../.

'However, the reader has already paid somebody else to repair the ’91 Roller. Where does this leave him? This is not a simple question. The Act is a new piece of law that has not been tested much in the courts. It is important to remember that the Act specifically reserves the reader’s right to claim a different remedy to those listed above. This could include making a claim against the seller to recover the money that the reader has paid to repair the ’91 Roller. If the reader wants to pursue this option, he should speak to a solicitor to obtain specialist advice. The next question is whether the reader is still also entitled to reject the ’91 Roller (assuming he is still within the 30 day time limit set out in the Act). If the reader wants to try to do this, the first thing he must to is indicate to the seller that he is rejecting the ’91 Roller and treating the contract as at an end. He must make this clear to the seller. Unless the reader agrees to return the ’91 Roller to the seller, he must make the ’91 Roller available to the seller for collection. The reader should not use the ’91 Roller after he has rejected it. The seller may not accept that the ’91 Roller does not meet the required standards and this could become a matter for expert evidence. The issue could be complicated by the repairs that have already been carried out. The seller may try to argue that the reader is no longer able to reject the ’91 Roller because he has repaired it. Even if the seller can successfully argue this, it would not prevent the reader from claiming the costs of repair form the seller.

'While the Act has improved the position of a buyer such as the reader, the law is still very complicated. The reader should speak to a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.'
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