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New Laws Give Car Buyers More Rights

The British have never been very good at complaining but some new legislation is set to help. The Consumer Rights Directive came into force in Europe on 13 June and is the first of a series of legal changes that will make it far easier for UK motorists to complain about their cars.

The British have never been very good at complaining but some new legislation is set to help. The Consumer Rights Directive came into force in Europe on 13 June and is the first of a series of legal changes that will make it far easier for UK motorists to complain about their cars. A core part of this legislation is the increase in the period during which a customer can cancel an online order, from 7 to 14 days. The rules on refunds have also been tightened up and these must now be handed over within 14 days of goods being returned. 
 
In the UK, the Consumer Rights Directive is being bolstered by the UK Consumer Rights Bill, which is scheduled to become law later in 2014. This bill is intended to consolidate no less than eight different pieces of existing legislation, including the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Sale of Goods Act. The new bill will remove some of the ambiguity in these existing rules, such as the ‘reasonable’ period that customers have to reject faulty goods. This will be changed to allow customers 30 days to reject a faulty car. The legislation will also be altered so that customers will not first have to accept a repair before rejecting the vehicle. 
 
Under the new rules, motorists will have greater rights to hand the car back up to six months after taking delivery. In the event of a car being faulty, manufacturers will be given one opportunity to repair the problem. Should this fail, the customer will be permitted to return the car. In this case, the customer will receive a refund but there will be deductions for the time the customer has been using the car. The current law does not specify any limit to the number of times a manufacturer can attempt to repair a car before it is rejected by the customer.
 
The legislation has not been wholly welcomed by the motor trade. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and motoring complaints arbitration organisation, Motor Codes, have both stated that this last part of the legislation is unreasonable. A spokesman for the SMMT said: “Sometimes things take longer to figure out and one repair could lead to a different problem.” He was joined by a spokesman for Motor Codes, who added: “If you’re buying a complex piece of kit, there may be minor glitches. That’s what the new car warranty is there for.”
 
The new legislation will also beef up enforcement in such matters. The Trading Standards body has said that it will now increase powers to make dealers compensate any motorists who they feel have been treated unfairly. The new legislation is sure to be popular with motorists who will now feel that they can expect a fault-free new car without any quibbling or endless repairs. 
 
Not all new motoring legislation is as popular with drivers. New ‘inconsiderate’ driving laws came into force last August and already more than 5,000 motorists have been charged. The new laws cover offences that are not as serious as speeding or using a mobile phone but still cause irritation, such as hogging the middle lane on motorways and pushing into queues. Antisocial habits, such as accelerating through puddles or doing handbrake turns are also covered by the law. Offenders can be fined £100 or receive three penalty points. They can also be forced to take a safe driving course. 
 
Enforcement of the new laws has been uneven. Some forces have chosen only to issue warnings and put drivers through re-education courses. Five police forces in England and Wales have decided not to stop inconsiderate drivers at all, citing the lack of any re-education training facilities as the reason. RAC Foundation director, Professor Stephen Glaister, said: “The encouraging thing is that this new law is being used by police. The long-term test is whether accident rates fall.” He was supported by Association of Chief Police Officers spokesperson, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, who added: “Officers have found the new procedures helpful as they seek to raise standards of driving and keep road users safe.”

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