Tag Archives: complaints

Making a motor complaint – what you need to know

A recent press release confirms that The Motor Ombudsman has dealt with some 9700 contacts, presumably enquiring about making a complaint between April and June 2017.

Just imagine dealing with this sort of angry volume!

That’s presumably including many who are considering complaining about businesses that are signed up to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Code Of Practice scheme covering new cars, used car sales, service and repair garage work and car warranties.

Whilst this Ombudsman has quite a lot of dealers, garages and warranty providers signed up to their scheme I wondered where motorists with problems at non member dealers or garages go? So I googled and found the Consumer Ombudsman website but again, if the business you want to complain about isn’t part of either of these schemes you’re on your own it seems.

And never was this as evidently dysfunctional a process as illustrated by comments made below the AutoTrader article that introduced me to the Consumer Ombudsman. I imagine these may well be from individuals who bought a car from an AutoTrader advertiser? Too many for AutoTrader to handle one presumes from the absence of any acknowledgements.

So, keeping this blog short and to the point, if you didn’t know that car sales, servicing and repairs are largely unregulated areas within the motor industry and you accidentally chose a garage, a dealer or a warranty product that isn’t part of a Chartered Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice scheme you might be interested to read what happens when things go wrong?

Well, by and large, the answer is ‘not a lot’. You’re mostly on your own and because of this too few motorists take matters further, fobbed off by inadequate warranties or not realising their rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Which is a great shame and probably why the industry maintains its lacklustre image tarnishing the many good car dealers in the process.

Coping With a Motor Complaint

So, what should you do if you have a complaint about a car, a dealer or a garage? Here’s some advice.

1) Stay calm. Nice people stand a much better chance of getting a solution than difficult ones. Know who you speak to and when. Document your conversations. If you’re a member of FOXY Lady Drivers Club make sure we know… and that they know we’re watching the outcome with interest.

2) If you’re dealing with a manufacturer approved or franchised dealer or garage you ultimately have the car manufacturer to escalate your complaint to but you’ll still need to demonstrate that you gave their annointed garage or dealer the chance to rectify this before they failed.

3) Don’t imagine that you can simply go to another garage to get things put right or that garage number one will pay your bills if you do. They don’t have to. You should give garage number one the chance to put it right – even if you’re simply going through the motions.

4) Even if you’re unhappy with a business bill, you are usually required to pay it but you should write on the invoice ‘Paid Under Duress’ to show you didn’t want to, it wasn’t good value and/or the problem wasn’t rectified.

5) Remember that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

i) Goods shouldn’t be faulty or damaged when you get them, subject to a price reality check of course ie the greater the discount the lower the standard of expectation.

ii) Goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.

iii) Goods supplied must match any description given to you*, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.

* _as in any privately sold vehicle advertisement_

How to Resolve a Faulty Product

Here’s how to get a faulty motor product replaced or repaired within The Consumer Rights Act 2015.

a) If the vehicle in question is of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described you can claim/get a full refund within 30 days. Don’t hang about.

b) If you are outside the 30-day ‘right to reject’ you have to give the dealer or garage one opportunity to repair or replace any goods which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.

You can state your preference, but the retailer can normally choose whichever would be cheapest or easier for it to do. If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.

c) Check if the business concerned is part of a Trading Standards Institute scheme as in

New cars The Motor Ombudsman
Car Sales The Motor Ombudsman
RAC Used Vehicle*
Car Servicing & Repairs The Motor Ombudsman
Car Servicing & Repairs Trust My Garage*
Car Servicing & Repairs Bosch Car Service*

*they handle any complaints about their members.

And take your complaint to them once you’ve had a final/unacceptable offer from the offending business.

Don’t forget that you might have recourse from a credit card company if you used one to pay here.

Flaws Within Motor Industry Complaint Processes

I don’t know how many motorists contact the general Consumer Ombudsman or The Motor Ombudsman with a complaint about a motor business that isn’t one of their subscribers. I’d imagine quite a few are then bitterly disappointed to discover that their rogue dealer or garage isn’t covered here.

I don’t know another industry that makes such a selling point out of their complaints processes! I’d much rather the whole industry was subject to Government regulation to ‘out’ the bad guys.

If I knew nothing about the motor and automotive industry I’d not realise that both these Ombudsmen services are closed shops because they are only handling complaints concerning THEIR subscribers.

Stating the fairly obvious, bad car dealers and garages are the ones least likely to join a quality scheme yet this is where most of the complaints will come from. Regardless of the feedback they all somehow manage to produce for Google.

As things stand, motorists who make the ‘wrong’ garage or car dealer choice are stranded all too often and it costs them too much to further their cause, deterring many from using the courts or identifying offenders this way.

As I see it, the best idea is to have ONE Motor Ombudsman to cover the whole of the motor industry – regardless of whether a business subscribes to a CTSI scheme or not.

Of course ONE Motor Ombudsman scheme covering all car dealers and garages would be the equivalent of regulation (like MOTs are regulated by the DVSA) – this would be my preference.

We’d then be able to ‘out’ the (too many) bad guys and help the (too many) mediocre ones do a better job to benefit motorists and their business alike.

Sadly this would starve the Chartered Trading Standards Institute from earning out of as many competitive schemes as they can sell to, per Code Of Practice scheme. And whilst I can see a significant business case for one scheme rather than many, our current Government is no fan of regulation they tell us.

Even when the detriment is as great as it is in this area and the implications are as far reaching re car safety.

Finally it just might be significant that The Motor Ombudsman is part of The SMMT (Society Of Motor Manufacturers And Traders) and that Trust My Garage is part of the Retail Motor Industry’s Independent Garage Association. Of course they both try to be 100% impartial when it comes to customer complaints and the CTSI Code dictates how the process is managed, but I can’t help thinking about turkeys and Christmas. Like it or not, both organisations have a vested interest in shareholders and stakeholders ahead of Joanna Public.


The purpose of this blog is to alert women drivers that, if all else fails, FOXY will have a look at their complaint and possibly share their experience within The Club to benefit other female motorists. We’ll consider naming and shaming evident cowboys in our Red Card rogue gallery. By all means email info@foxyladydrivers.com and better still join The Club to support our hard work here.

Buying a new car in 2014?

swiss_toniIf you’re planning to buy a new car in 2014 you’d do well to read these used car buying tips from vehicle information expert HPI.

This matters because few motorists realise that this isn’t a regulated business area.

To be precise, if you buy a car from a private seller you have few rights in law when things go wrong hence the number of complaints in this area.

Even if you decide to buy a used car from an unknown dealer or showroom, without any Approved Code process being included, she who buys on the basis of a pretty looking car may well be left with a bitter taste if the car in question turns out to be a lemon…

Sadly, instead of the government or the automotive industry sorting this area out, motorists are expected to check this, that and the other for themselves. This ‘caveat emptor’ policy costs the motorist each time of course, simply to ensure that a car sales business is selling a car that’s fit (ie safe) for purpose. Sadly the reality is that few motorists expect to be left so vulnerable in this area so they don’t know to check out complaint numbers before parting with £’000s of their hard-earned money.

This is not a new thing – it has been going on for years and is another area of the UK motor industry we are deeply ashamed of.

How not to be duped by dodgy dealers

Motorists stand more of a chance of being duped by an independent car dealer as 3 out of 4 complaints received by Citizens Advice trace back to an independent used car dealer. Yet there are many reliable used car dealers when you know what to look out for… Apparently 4 out of 5 used car complaints have at least one hidden fault costing an average of £225 to fix and a staggering 1 in 9 faulty used cars bought are said to cost over £1000 to repair. In fact, more than £353 million was spent on faulty vehicles over the past 12 months, according to Citizens Advice, and HPI reckon that statistic might be on the light side…

Shane Teskey, Senior Manager, Consumer Services for HPI, interprets this eye-watering statistic for us:

“Last year 2.7 million used cars were sold privately in the UK and Northern Ireland, which could equate to over £480 million pounds spent on faulty cars being repaired. Too many used car buyers are falling foul of dodgy cars from shifty sellers. Don’t be hoodwinked into parting with your cash without conducting rigorous checks. People rarely buy a house without having a survey, so why would they happily buy a car without having it inspected?”

HPI goes on to reveal that, in their experience, 1 in 5 cars need a cash injection of £550 to keep them on the road, leaving the buyer significantly out of pocket. Something as seemingly straightforward as replacing worn tyres can cost £320 for a Focus or similar. All of which goes to show the value of having an independent vehicle inspection conducted before purchase.

By checking over 200 individual items on a car, an HPI Inspection, carried out by a highly trained vehicle assessor, will help consumers choose a vehicle that’s roadworthy and safe to drive as well as one that’s been in an accident and subsequently repaired. It will also expose any faults such as worn brakes, exhausts and tyres and uncover any hidden defects to the interior and exterior body panels. With prices starting from just £99.00, used car buyers will be spending much less than the cost of buying a banger in disguise.

HPI’s Top Tips for avoiding a wreck

1/ When he says… “It’s just back here…”

We say. “Make sure you are viewing the car in full light and at the registered keepers address. Or is it parked against a wall, under cover with dim light, in a backstreet alley? Scratches and dents are harder to see in poor light, or if the paintwork is wet. A common scam is to sell vehicles from car parks or lay-bys – don’t fall for it.”

2/ When he says… “It’s been spruced up just for you”

We say “Beware a clean engine bay. Most sellers will clean the car from top to bottom to display it in its best light. However, sometimes this can be a ploy to disguise things such as leaks. A trained vehicle inspector stands a better chance of spotting any leaks than the untrained eye.”

3/ When he says… “It looks just like new”

We say “And some parts might be. New fittings that are not appropriate for the age and mileage of the car should make you take a second look. If the car has had new pedal rubbers fitted, or a brand new gear knob, is excessive wear and tear being hidden?”

4/ When he says… “She’s ready to go out for a spin”

We say “Be wise to the warm engine prior to the test drive. Ideally start the car from both hot and cold. If the engine has been running prior to your test drive, there may be an issue around cold starts that is being hidden.”

5/ When he says “Let me show you that”

We say “Beware of vendor demonstrations. They know just how to flick a switch, turn a knob or pull a handle to ensure correct functionality of a system. Best try the item yourself.”

6/ When he says… “Comes with new tyres”

We say “Replacement tyres may have been fitted because of uneven tyre wear, masking steering, suspension and alignment concerns. Undoubtedly new tyres are usually expensive and will look good but they can mask significant defects.

Finally, always check the Vehicle Handbook

HPI’s final advice is to make sure the MOT and service record handbook refers to the vehicle you’re looking at. Be very cautious ie walk away if ANY details appear to have been altered or show signs of being tampered with.

Finally, if you’ve had a good or bad recent car buying experience via a UK car dealer please tell us via http://www.foxychoice.com/good-garage-feedback-for-women.php. We hold Club members’ hands through any complaint process; the least FOXY can do is tell others about any instances where an unscrupulous car dealer clearly doesn’t give a toss about the road worthiness of the car in question and/or has compromised your personal safety here.

Like Jimmy, we want to trust people

lemon_car_little_girlIt’s a sobering thought when you read that Citizens Advice handled some 45,000 complaints about secondhand cars last year from motorists who clearly bought a lemon. Sobering in that this is probably the tip of the iceberg because not everybody knows to go to them when things go wrong. This may well explain why many garages and dealers make a selling point of trade associations’ complaints handling schemes – they think that dealing with complaints is normal practice.

The problem is, as ever, that the motor industry isn’t regulated which is why the likes of the rogue trader car dealers we see on an increasing number of TV programmes about them carry on trading.

Which is why we should also watch the Citizens Advice video about Jimmy buying a secondhand car. Please watch it all, even if you can sense what’s coming, because the most useful bit of advice is at the end.

Sadly if Jimmy won’t listen to the good advice of his friend, chances are few motorists will listen to advice from a company they don’t normally have any dealings with.

That doesn’t make Jimmy an idiot in any way. In fact most of us are like Jimmy in that we don’t realise the risks we run buying a cheap car from a private car seller or an Arthur Daley-like character on a garage forecourt. If we don’t know them but the car’s a gleaming steal, it’s human nature to want to trust the individuals here.

Used car checks

Fortunately buyers do have rights as stated in the Sale Of Goods Act when we buy a car from a trader. It must be ‘of satisfactory quality’ be ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘as described’. If it isn’t and you find this out within a reasonable period of time, you can take it back to be repaired, replaced or for a refund. Fingers crossed.

Bear in mind however that all this is subject to the grey area of reasonableness ie the older/cheaper the car, if faults were pointed out to you (always difficult to prove they weren’t), if the service history was non-existent then you stand a lesser chance of proving liability.

And that you don’t have the right to get a substandard car fixed to your satisfaction elsewhere and then expect the original dealer to foot the bill. That’s not usually seen as reasonable although I would beg to differ in some situations

My advice is always to do a used car check before buying, to make sure it is ‘as described’ ie that it hasn’t been stolen, written off, had its mileage clocked or be the subject of outstanding finance, which you’d pick up the tab for by the way. Just google for ‘used car check’; they’re really cheap and easy to do online. Many dealers include one for all used cars they sell – it’s often called an HPI car check so you can ask to see theirs before you buy.

Other than that, our advice is ‘if it seems too cheap, the salesman will know why, and so will you in due course.’ I recommend you always google to see what the car in question is worth, via a valuation service online. If the car in question is much cheaper, only you can decide whether to risk it but I’d always pay for a mechanical car check from the professionals here. Especially if the car doesn’t have a regular servicing history.

Most garages will look this over for you for a fee. Experts like the AA, RAC and DEKRA (FOXY’s partner) will do a thorough mechanical check for you costing c£100. I recommend this so you don’t end up like Jimmy, facing a bill of a lot more than £100 simply because he didn’t do his homework in advance.

Getting the deal in writing

Sadly you have little comeback in law if you bought the car from a private seller.

Whereas if you buy a nearly new car from a franchised dealer or a big used car showroom you should expect the car to have been thoroughly checked before you buy. But these impressive sounding checks vary quite a lot so you’d be best to ask what precisely is included and to ask to see what the mechanical checklist revealed.

I’d also look for a minimum 6 month MOT and a 12 month used car warranty for your reasonable peace of mind.

From a financial point of view, where part exchange and car finance can turn the transaction into a smoke and mirrors game of moving numbers, we recommend that you always get the final financial facts spelled out in writing before you go ahead. Their paperwork should spell out, separately, the amount you will pay for the ‘new’ car, the precise amount you will get for your ‘old’ car (where applicable) and the final car finance terms (where applicable).

Then take a reflective break of 24 hours to check online and be happy with the deal. Where in doubt, pull out…

I know it shouldn’t have to be like this but it is. Sadly those that know how to play the car buying game are likely to end up with a better deal than those who don’t. Which is why FOXY Lady Drivers Club offers a hand-holding service for Club members and encourages all women drivers to post feedback about their recent car buying experiences via our sister FOXY Choice website.


Secondhand rose car buyers

If you can’t afford a new car, with or without a scrappage, swappage or part exchange deal then it’s a used car for you, especially in a recession when money is tight. And very often that is the foxy thing to do regardless your budget, providing you choose the right model, a well looked after car and get a fair price. Less depreciation certainly.

Sadly many don’t get the new car buying process right and in 2009 HM Government’s Consumer Direct received 50,790 complaints about second-hand cars bought from independent dealers, up by 8% on the previous year and well over double the number of complaints about TVs and mobile phones.

Knowing that at least half of those buying a new car are likely to be women drivers, it is fair to imagine that a higher percentage of them will be buying and driving used cars than men. I say this based on speaking to many members of FOXY Lady Drivers Club where the typical family has children and two cars with Dad more likely to be covering motorway miles in the newer car and Mum more likely to be running the older car and doing local mileage with children on board.

And of course many secondhand cars are bought from private individuals who may or may not be known to the buyer. It is only when things go wrong (private sales are not recorded in the Consumer Direct 50,000 complaints remember) that the driver learns that they have no protection in law…

Yet as few as 20% of all HPI car checks are carried out by women drivers which means (I am guessing here) that they are more likely to have subsequet problems and be the complainants (or the affected drivers at least) about Arthur Daley-like practices in today’s secondhand car sales industry.

The Consumer Direct survey information is used by the Office of Fair Trading, Trading Standards and other enforcement bodies so it’s good news that the OFT has finally launched a report into this selling scandal and will tell us what they find in May this year…

I did email them to see if they wanted my feedback but they didn’t reply ;-(. This is what I would have said, if invited…

  • Poorly maintained, badly serviced and shoddily repaired cars are potentially dangerous so those who sell them should be named, shamed and fined heavily.
  • Based on my anecdotal experience, women drivers are particularly vulnerable here, especially older women living on their own and who think they can trust car dealers. They need to know their options and their rights.
  • All used cars sold via a dealer should be sold with a HPI check – whether a franchised or independent dealer.
  • All used cars sold via a dealer should also be sold with a signed and dated checklist to show the customer that all the important and safety related items have all been checked and are either fine or need attention.
  • All used cars via a dealer should be sold with a minimum of a 6 month warranty (as in law) which that dealer must honour.
  • All used cars sold by private individuals should either be sold caveat emptor (where SORN or for restoration project) or with a HPI, MOT and local car check carried out by an authorised garage. Then the buyer knows what he or she is in for… after all we have to declare the truth to sell a house and there are serious consequences now of not doing this.
  • Finally an unbiased organisation should adjudicate when sales go wrong. It would be good to see the onus put on helping the buyer more than the seller; make any conciliation service friendly and free and help the motorist take matters further in law if need be. I don’t think that a service involving dealers should be run by a motor industry organisation with a vested interest in selling trade membership, for example.

Of course it will be difficult to determine the reasonableness of all this when the dealer has bought a car online/at auction and depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle.

But when you see ITV’s Debbie Dingle in Emmerdale collude with a driver to sell a cut ‘n’ shut car that is unsafe and illegal you know that the law isn’t doing its job here and the cost of that is being borne by innocent motorists looking for a bargain and who are too trusting to realise that if a car is too cheap there will be a very good reason.


“It is our resonsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.”
Peter Ustinov