Audi you like that?

And so to a recent case where a new car appeared be showing more “kaputt durch technik”, rather than the advertised Vorchsprung durch Technik.

The case considers the period of time within which a buyer will be deemed to have accepted goods for the purposes of the the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SGA). Whilst the case considered the point for the purposes of a buyer’s right to reject goods under section 15B (which applies only in Scotland), the case is of general relevance to the effect of acceptance under the SGA – in particular, the rights and remedies of a buyer in respect of the supply of defective goods.

The pursuer had purchased, as a “third car”, a £41,000 Audi A4 from Edinburgh Audi. Following a year of occasional use, a number of minor and then major problems occurred, the latter of which caused the car to suddenly run in “safety” mode (restricted to no more than 30 mph). When this happened for a second time, the pursuer took the car back to the dealer (now 15 months after delivery), where it remained for several months whilst the dealer tried to repair it. After a number of failed attempts to repair it, the pursuer sought to reject the car and seek repayment of the purchase price, failing which payment of damages.

The court held that the car was not of satisfactory quality (and therefore in breach of the SGA) as it had been fitted with a defective electronics component. However, the court also held that the pursuer had lost his right to reject the car. Under the SGA, if the buyer retains the goods for “a reasonable period of time” without intimating to the seller that he has rejected them then they wil be deemed to have been accepted.

There are a number of points to take from this case, which are relevant when considering whether a buyer still has a right to reject defective goods:

  • the right to reject is a short term remedy only, and the “reasonable period” for the purposes of deemed acceptance will be construed accordingly
  • this applies even where there is a defect that does not emerge until some time after delivery, as the the buyer still has a remedy in damages
  • however, any period during which the seller attempts to repair the goods is discounted for the purposes of calculating the “reasonable period”
  • in this case, after 15 months it was too late for the pursuer to reject the car
  • buyers wishing to preserve their right to reject goods should therefore notify the seller as soon as they become aware of any defects or problems
  • notwithstanding this case, consumers may still have remedies (to rescind contracts or require replacement of goods) under the European law derived rights contained in later sections of the SGA

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February 2010
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