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Know Your Rights

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

Know Your Rights

Geoff Maxted
November 1, 2013

Walter White and Pontiac Aztek
In Britain we don’t like to complain. It’s simply not in our reserved natures. In this country we ‘grin and bear it’ and ‘look on the bright side’. Yet we also know that the only way to seek redress for being wronged in some way is to complain - like the gent in the image.

Buying a car is a major expense; possibly the second most expensive thing after a house purchase. Aside from the issue of getting a good deal, as customers we have a right to expect the cars we buy to be as they are described. Sometimes this is not the case and things go wrong, opening up the prospect of some difficulty at best or some unpleasantness at worst: yet it is our duty to complain.

Seeking redress for a faulty car can be problematic because many buyers have scant knowledge of how a car functions and they allow themselves to be hoodwinked by technical jargon. This won’t do. Buyers of goods have considerably more rights than they perhaps realise thanks to the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994. This should be the first port of call. In its entirety it is full of the usual jargon and lengthy detail but there are plenty of places where useful summaries can be found. If it is still confusing then organisations like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau are there to help.

First off, when you buy a car the contract is with the individual who sold it and not the manufacturer. That excuse won’t wash. If, as the owner, you don’t really understand the fault then it might be a good idea to get a third party to examine the car. The next thing to do is to put it in writing detailing the fault or faults and, crucially, what you want doing about it.

It is also crucial to get to the right person. Don’t be fobbed off by excuses, the person you want is the boss - the dealer principal. If you are sending a letter make sure all the details are included, making reference to the relevant part of the Act. Or when making a personal visit always take the written complaint with you.

It is vital to know where you stand legally. For example, if a fault is discovered within six months of buying a car then it is presumed to have been there from the outset. It is up to the vendor to prove otherwise. After six months the burden of proof falls on the buyer.

Overall, there is plenty of protection available when buying from a dealer but it is up to the aggrieved customer to know about it. Your rights are considerably more restricted if buying privately. Nobody likes complaining but it has to be done and it is nice to know that the law is on your side. Even if you are Walter White.

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