“I have recently supplied and fitted a gearbox to a customer’s vehicle. The manufacturer put a 12 month warranty on it. It has now failed again 2 years later and the customer is saying I am liable.”

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) require that any parts to be supplied are of Satisfactory Quality (s9). This does not mean that if the customer is unhappy with the quality of the goods, that the goods must be wrong.

Satisfactory Quality

Under the CRA, satisfactory quality has a specific definition. The law requires that any goods meet the quality that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking into account :-

· any description of the goods,

· the price or other consideration for the goods, and

· all the other relevant circumstances.

In the current example, the customer would be entitled to expect the gearbox to be reasonably durable. We do not know what has failed or what mileage the gearbox has covered but, all things being equal, you would expect a gearbox to last longer than 2 years.

But it’s now outside the 12-month warranty

As the gearbox came with a 12 month warranty, this has now expired and the customer cannot claim under it. However, the warranty is a red herring here.

When you supply goods or services, any warranty is given in addition to the customer’s consumer rights. As such, if the parts when supplied were not of a satisfactory quality, i.e. reasonably durable, then a customer can sue for up to 6 years, provided they can prove the parts were faulty when you supplied them.

This does not mean that you are guaranteeing the goods for 6 years or that you are automatically liable because they have failed.

After 6 months from the time of sale the customer must prove that the part has failed because it is faulty (rather than the use they have put it to or an underlying issue with their vehicle), that a reasonable person would have expected the part to last longer, and that the failure has been caused by a defect present when the part was supplied to them. This can be difficult and will depend on the evidence and facts presented.

In Conclusion

Any parts must be of a satisfactory quality taking into consideration common issues such as your description and the price paid. Any diagnostic work, advice and fitting of parts must be carried out with a reasonable level of care and skill. A failure on any of these issues will result in you being liable for any losses reasonably sustained.

Any failure should be investigated. You can require the customer to prove what has happened; after the first 6 months this can be very difficult. However, you should consider whether you will be happy to accept anyone else’s opinion. Where appropriate consider whether an independent engineer should be used.

If you cannot agree who is liable, consider referring the matter to the National Conciliation Service. This is a free and independent dispute resolution service provided to RMI members and their customers. They can be contacted on 01788 538317 and more details can be found on the RMI website at http://www.rmif.co.uk/consumers/why-use-an-rmi-member/

Lastly, when supplying and fitting any parts you need to seek legal liability (a bit like pass the parcel). You are liable to any customer for both the parts and how they are fitted. Your supplier is in turn liable to you if the parts they supplied to you were faulty. As soon as you receive a complaint you should approach your supplier and keep them informed. Even if you are liable to your customer, you may be able to recover this loss from your supplier.

As this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, as well as several industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.

 

Motor Industry Legal Services

Motor Industry Legal Services provides fully comprehensive legal advice and representation to UK motor retailers for one annual fee. It is the only regulated law firm in the UK which specialises in motor law and motor trade law. MILS currently advises over 1,000 individual businesses within the sector as well as the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) and its members.