Watchdog warns car traders to be aware of consumer rights

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Motorists who have purchased new or used vehicles are among those highlighted by the European Consumer Centre (ECC) of being at risk of being mislead by traders in relation to consumer rights when a product is faulty. It is calling on traders to ensure that staff are aware of EU consumers’ entitlements to certain remedies, such as repair and replacement, and to be aware that these rights are in addition to any extra protections provided by a manufacturer’s guarantee/warranty.

Press and Communications Manager for ECC Ireland, Martina Nee, explained: ‘Problems with the functioning of a product do occur and obviously this is not necessarily the fault of the trader who sold it. However, what is within the trader’s control is to ensure that it is abiding by obligations under EU and national consumer legislation and that staff provide consumers with the correct information when a fault is reported to them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

On a regular basis we hear reports where consumers are wrongly led to believe things like, if the manufacturer’s guarantee or warranty is out of date or doesn’t cover a particular issue then that’s it, the consumer is not entitled to anything else or doesn’t have any other rights. In other cases, staff may have informed consumers that it’s not up to the trader who sold the good to provide remedies and to take the matter up directly with the manufacturer.

ECC Ireland highlighted a case where an Irish consumer purchased a second-hand car from a dealer in the UK. He tested the car and asked for a further discount because of a slight bend on the left side of the car. When he brought the car back to Dublin he noticed signs of oil on the driveway and brought it to his local garage. The mechanic advised him to return the car as there were a lot of issues with the vehicle which would cost approximately €300 to repair. The consumer contacted the company outlined under the warranty, but they refused to repair it because he got a further discount. He also had issues getting redress from the dealer who sold the car who claimed that if it’s not covered by the warranty then there was nothing further they could do.

ECC Ireland says that traders, as well as consumers, need to be aware that the sales contract is with the seller and so it is up to them to provide redress. EU consumer legislation has provided a sort of ‘legal guarantee’ that entitles consumers across Europe to seek this redress when a good is faulty for a period of two years. Under Irish law, the limitation period is actually six years. If a fault arises within the first six months of purchase, it is presumed to have existed at the time of delivery and it is up to the seller to prove otherwise or provide remedies. After six months, the consumer may be requested to show that the lack of conformity (e.g. a hidden defect) already existed at the time of delivery. The seller should first offer a repair or replacement (liaising with the manufacturer if necessary) and provide this free of charge. If this is not possible or fails to correct the problem, then the consumer may request a refund.’