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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation

Purchase by inspection: advice from Lawgistics

Date: Tuesday 04 January 2022

Lawgistics had a recent case go to a court hearing and was successful in defending it on behalf of one of its members.

The customer bought a VW Transporter from the member for £20,000. The advert was created by inputting the registration number into a website and all of the information about the vehicle was pulled through from a database into the advert that appeared.

The member did not notice the advert stated the vehicle had air conditioning, when in fact, it did not. It did not even have an air conditioning system button.

The customer viewed the vehicle on three occasions, including a lengthy test drive when temperatures were in the 20 degrees range, and at no point noticed there was no air conditioning.

The customer collected the vehicle at a time when temperatures were averaging 27 degrees, and yet it was two weeks before he notified Lawgistics' member that there was no air conditioning system.

The member immediately offered an apology for not noticing the missing air conditioning, and to refund the cost of the vehicle in full, but the customer decided that he wanted a retrofit air conditioning system at a cost of £2,200.

The member was sensitive to the customer’s issues but was not willing to fund the retrofitting of an air condition system as it was disproportionate to do so plus the dangers of inherent future issues that might arise if the system was not working correctly. A full refund was offered on numerous occasions, but the customer was fixated on the air conditioning being installed and issued proceedings for the cost of the retrofitting.

At trial, the member’s barrister, fully briefed by Lawgistics, systematically stripped away the customer’s arguments until the judge could only find that the customer had fully inspected the vehicle, on more than one occasion, and had never asked about air conditioning, so therefore in accordance with section 9(4)(b) of the Consumer Rights Act:

(4) The term mentioned in subsection (1) does not cover anything which makes the quality of the goods unsatisfactory—
(b) where the consumer examines the goods before the contract is made, which that examination ought to reveal

The inspection by the customer should have identified the lack of air conditioning, as this was deemed by the court to be a purchase by inspection. The lack of air conditioning did not inhibit the performance of the vehicle, and as the Claimant did not ask about air conditioning, or notice for two weeks that there wasn’t an air conditioning facility, this shows that it was not an important factor in the purchase.

The judge agreed with Lawgistics that a retrofit of an air conditioning system was disproportionate given that it would make very little difference to the value of the vehicle and would have cost more than 10% of the sale price.

The judge gave the Claimant the option of returning the vehicle to the member for a refund, less a deduction of usage of 35p per mile for the 4,500 miles travelled, or he could keep the vehicle. He chose to keep the vehicle and no costs or legal fees were awarded.

The customer went from the offer of a full refund so he could purchase a different van with air conditioning, to keeping the van which would be worth less as a part exchange or as a sale than he originally paid for it.