Undisclosed incident damage
Cars with a crash history that was not revealed at the point of purchase is a growing area of contention. “A vehicle history check may not show a car as being recorded as a write-off when, in fact, it is,” says Ferguson. “They are bought from salvage websites, repaired and then bought at auction by dealers.”
The problem originates with some insurers who fail to record write-offs on an industry database called MIAFTR, a voluntary scheme designed to red-flag such cars. Ferguson cites the example of a client who recently bought an approved used Citroën C3 from a Citroën dealer. The car had done only 57 miles but an engineer’s inspection revealed that one of its chassis legs wasn’t properly attached, an inner wing was held on with mastic, the steering column had a loose bolt and a respray concealed replacement body panels.
The car had been bought by an elderly couple who soon spotted all was not well and confronted the dealer. He in turn accused them of having crashed and repaired it. The couple sought Ferguson’s help. He found pictures of the damaged C3 prior to its sale to a major company that repairs crashed cars. Despite this evidence, Ferguson says the case is still ongoing.
Stubborn finance companies
Many car buyers believe liability rests with the dealer, but in fact they can also take up a dispute with their finance company. Ferguson recounts the story of a client with a two-year-old Vauxhall Astra that had done 24,000 miles and which had a faulty clutch master cylinder. It was a well-known problem and the dealer wanted several thousand pounds to fix it. The customer contacted Ferguson who went straight to the finance company. He reminded them that under the law they were duty bound to have the problem fixed, and at no charge to the customer.
“Unfortunately for them, they didn’t agree,” he says. “We sued them and they ended up paying the repair costs, returning the customer his finance payments and compensating him.”
Managers who like to say ‘No’
Ferguson says he and his colleagues often encounter obstructive managers. He tells how he recently contacted a Jeep dealer to discuss a client’s car that had broken down three days after purchase. The dealer had, wrongly, told the customer they were allowed three attempts to fix it when, under the law, within the first 30 days the customer can reject it.