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Guest opinion: the Consumer Rights Act and selling used cars

Philip Harmer

The Consumer Rights Act is set to change the way car dealers and retailers sell used cars to the public with a super-charged version of the Sale of Goods Act, giving customers the right to reject a car within the first 30 days of purchase.

While it’s true that a customer doesn’t have to accept a repair or replacement and can demand their money back in the first 30 days, it’s not a ‘change your mind policy’ and with rights come obligations.

At first glance nothing much seems to have changed, in that refunds can only be invoked if the vehicle is not ‘of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and/or match the description’.

However, there are two caveats:

unlike its predecessor, the burden of proof is on the consumer to establish that the car fails to meet the criteria and taking into consideration the price, age and any statements made by the dealer; and

it provides that if the consumer is made aware of a particular defect or it was obvious on reasonable examination before purchase then that defect will not be grounds for finding the car to be unsatisfactory.

Obviously, fit for a particular purpose and/or matching a description makes for a slightly different issue.

Prevention is better than cure

Simply, dealers can help themselves and reduce their risk by adopting a more robust sales process using a check list which records the;

1. test drive in the car; and

2. static demonstration – going around the car introducing its benefits and of course dealing with the “are you going to replace that? “ questions; and

3. pre-delivery inspection sheet; and

4. the MoT.


Make sure your T&Cs are up to date and include information about:

  1. your complaints process, ADR; and
  2. warranty; and 
  3. an agreement for returning the vehicle.

Author: Philip Harmer (pictured) is a partner at Stormcatcher Business Lawyers based in Surrey. He is a lawyer, speaker and regular commentator on employment and business law

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