23/10/2015
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New consumer law to protect motorhome purchases

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Buying a new motorhome has become a safer proposition thanks to arrival of The  Consumer Rights Act in October. It aimed to simplify and enhance consumer purchasing rights by streamlining complicated law from eight different pieces of legislation into one. It will also introduce a range of new rights for consumers including a 30-day time period to return faulty goods. Ex-Business Secretary, Vince Cable said in March 2015, “This is the biggest shake up of consumer law for a generation.”

The changes include having 30 days to completely reject a purchase and demand a refund if it is found to be poor quality, not fit the purpose it was described for or if it doesn’t match the description given.

The key points cover four areas: Supply of goods, consumer options, deductions for use and supply of services.

The original rules that goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for the purpose described and match their actual description is retained. Where the goods fail any of these tests and so can be considered defective the consumer is entitled to either a 30-day, right to reject (after which they can’t), or tiered remedies where the consumer can ask the supplier to repair or replace the goods.

In the right to reject option the 30-day limit can be extended by the seller by at least 7 days if they have to replace or repair goods in this time. So, if a motorhome has a flaw on delivery, which the seller can quickly fix, the buyer can still reject it within the original 30-day period or after a short extension for the work to be carried out.

Once the right to reject period is up, the consumer must look to the tiered remedies and here there is a significant change. The vendor has only one opportunity to repair or replace the goods at the consumer’s request and cannot charge the consumer for this, must carry out the repair or the replacement within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience. If the repair fails or a replacement part isn’t available or possible, then the consumer has the right to a price reduction or a final right to reject the goods. So, if the problem still exists, you can reject the motorhome. There is a qualifying clause that states that the consumer cannot demand a full replacement vehicle rather than a repair if this creates a disproportionate burden. The clearest case for this is if there is a faulty part that can be replaced easily, then you have to accept the repair first.

There are more rules that apply if you end up rejecting the motorhome after the first six months.  Firstly, you could be charged a  deduction from the eventual refund for the use and enjoyment obtained when using the vehicle. This deduction for use is not the same as the depreciation in value of the motorhome over the time the customer has had it.

There are some exceptions that prevent you from invoking the Act to reject the motorhome or getting a replacement, which are more relevant for secondhand vehicles. These include where a defect was identified by the trader before the sale, where the goods were examined by the consumer before purchase and any defect should have been blindly obvious, you change your mind about owning the motorhome or the motorhome is damaged through your misuse.

The rest of the details concern supply of services relating to the purchase with a broad definition that can apply to different elements. Here, information provided by the selling company about itself, or the services it offers, either in writing or verbally, are regarded as part of the selling contract if the consumer takes these facts into account when deciding whether to enter buy the motorhome. An existing term in consumer law, to perform the services with reasonable care and skill, remains in place but there are now two new terms where the seller must make a reasonable charge for the services and perform the services in a reasonable time, unless the contract provides a timescale for performance. If the supplier fails to deliver the  specified service either adequately, or to an agreed schedule, the consumer may ask for it to be carried out again or receive a price reduction on the selling price.

The trade body for motorhomes, the National Caravan Council, or NCC, had this to say about the new legislation, “The many current laws around consumer rights can be confusing for businesses and consumers alike; therefore the NCC welcomes the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 which aims to consolidate these and to improve clarity and understanding for all.

 “The legislation will be an opportunity for businesses to review their processes and procedures, especially information in the customers’ contract. So it is essential that businesses make sure all their staff are aware of their responsibilities as retailers. Processes for dealing with any issues at the point of sale need to be clear and unambiguous.”

Directors of Auto-TrailStuart Turpin and David Thomas, the Joint Managing Directors for Auto-Trail, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers, commented, “The new Consumer Rights Act is something we shouldn’t be scared of. As expectations of the consumer increases, the demand for reliable, well-engineered vehicles understandably rises too.

 This new legislation is a positive move for the consumer and will no doubt provide some interesting challenges for manufacturers and dealers alike. Having a limited chance and time to repair a vehicle fault before recourse, will inevitably make life more difficult for some retailers, however, it will ensure everyone is more professional in their attitude, rigorous in their fault finding and thorough in their procedures.”

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