News and announcements from North Yorkshire trading standards as well as notices of product recalls that may affect North Yorkshire consumers.

Issues with recently purchased used cars are the subject area we receive the highest number of complaints about. Finding the exact car you were looking for is exciting, but it really is worth taking a step back and doing your homework before purchasing. This reduces the chance that you will be one of the people contacting trading standards for advice on resolving an issue with your car in the future.

You should look at the following:

The number of previous keepers

The number of previous keepers has a real impact on the value of a car. If it has been advertised as one previous keeper, but it turns out later to have had three previous keepers, it will make the car far less valuable when you come to sell it. Avoid this pitfall by asking to see the vehicle registration document, the V5C. This tells you how many previous keepers the car has. If it doesn't match up to what you have been told, you may wish to ask more questions, or simply walk away from the deal.

Is the mileage correct?

Car mileages are recorded at each MOT so you can ask the garage for the MOT document. If applicable, this will show up to four years of mileages. Alternatively, to be extra sure, you can enter the registration number and make of the car into the DVLA online MOT checker to look at the previously recorded mileages. If the numbers don’t stack up, it probably isn’t the car for you.

Is the full service history actually a full service history?

Ask to see the service record for the car. Find out what the manufacturer's recommended service intervals are for the car you are interested in. If you see gaps where there has not been a service undertaken, you might want to consider whether you are willing to buy the car and if you still are, what you are willing to pay for it. Timely and appropriate services mean a car is less likely to develop faults in the long term and might also be necessary to claim on a manufacturer's warranty.  

Has the car been involved in an accident and been written off? Is there outstanding finance on the car?

If a car is an insurance write off, it will be worth significantly less than you thought. If you buy a car which has outstanding finance associated to it, the finance company will have a legal claim to ownership of that car. There are a variety of mechanisms that you can use to check if a car is recorded as an insurance right off or has outstanding car finance on it, including via the AA, HPI, and the RAC. 

Is the price right?

It's easy to be blinded by finding your perfect car, but consider if the price you will be paying is the right price. You can check in guides like Parkers or Glasses Guide, but a crude test is to see what other cars, of the same make and model, with similar age and mileage are being sold for. Although everyone loves to get a bargain, be suspicious if a car is very cheap in comparison to the same model sold elsewhere. This could be an indication that the car has hidden problems and the garage is eager for a quick sale. 

Is the garage a member of a Code Approval Scheme or a trade body that offers arbitration if you do end up in dispute with your garage?

There may be signs around the garage stating they are. Go onto the trade association website to confirm the garage's membership.

If the car comes with a warranty or even of you plan to buy a separate warranty, what does the warranty cover?

It is important to know what faults the warranty will cover and if the warranty has a limit. Many have a £1,000 limit, meaning if the required work will cost more than that, you would have to foot the bill over the first £1,000. Many will not cover certain faults. Make sure you know the limitations of the warranty.

Newer cars might still have part of a manufacturer's warranty covering some aspects of the vehicle. Find out what is covered and any limitations or restrictions which could apply.

Remember, even if the car is sold with a warranty, if things go wrong, you can still reply on your statutory rights; that the car should be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.

Is the car in sound mechanical order?

Unless you are a mechanic, you may not be able to make any judgment as to the car's mechanical condition. Ensure that you test drive the car and that the test drive is sufficiently to make a proper assessment. If necessary, get a friend or family member to drive the car as well on your behalf, to get a second opinion on how it drives. Are there any odd knocking noises? Do the brakes and the gearbox feel ok? You should consider obtaining an independent mechanical report before you purchase the car.

Is this car really for you?

Having considered all of the points above, it is also advisable to consider whether the car suits your needs. Work out how much it is likely to cost you in petrol, what will it cost to tax and insure the car? If you are taking out finance on the car, how much will it cost you overall and does that still make the car good value.

Other sources of information

The Citizens Advice consumer helpline provide a useful checklist via their website called "Check it, don't regret it - checklist for buying a used car".

There is also a smartphone app available for both Android and iPhones called "Car Buyers Guide" which gives hints and tips which you can use as a prompt while you are looking at cars at garages.

What if I purchase the car and in spite of all these checks, there is a problem?

If a car has been misdescribed, as well as being a breach of contract, which you can pursue the trader for using your statutory rights, there is likely to have been criminal offences committed which trading standards want to know about. The Citizens Advice consumer helpline will provide you with advice on your statutory rights and will pass your complaint on the trading standards, to consider any criminal offence.

The Citizens Advice consumer helpline can be contacted on 03454 040506 or via their website.

Why has the Consumer Rights Act been introduced?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is intended to make consumer law simpler and clearer, and will make sorting out problems, when they arise, quicker and cheaper.

When will it apply?

The rights given by the Consumer Rights Act will apply to goods and services bought after 1 October 2015. For goods and services bought before the 1 October 2015, as a consumer, you will still rely on the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

What are the main changes to the consumer rights?

Digital content
Your rights as a consumer when you purchase digital content are mentioned specifically, for the first time. When buying digital content, you will now have the same rights as you have when you buy any other goods; that the goods are of satisfactory quality, fit for the purpose the consumer makes known to the trader and as described.

Time scale for rejection
The Act introduces a time limit after purchase when a consumer can seek to reject the goods and seek a full refund, if the goods they have bought are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described. The old legislation, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 just said that if goods were found to be faulty within a reasonable time after purchase, the consumer could reject the goods and seek a full refund. What the time limit was for a "reasonable time" was up for debate. The Consumer Rights Act introduces a time limit of 30 days from purchase for consumers to reject faulty goods and seek a full refund.

One chance at repair or replacement
Under the previous legislation, once the time in which a consumer's right to reject had run out, they could seek a repair, a replacement or a partial refund. The new Consumer Rights Act state that if the seller has provided a replacement or a repair and the goods become faulty again, that then the consumer doesn't have to accept a further repair or replacement, but can seek a partial refund, minus the use the consumer has had from the goods.

Services - right to repeat performance
For services, it remains the right of consumers that the service is done with reasonable care and skill, and that where the price or the time frame in which the service is done, is not agreed in advance, the price should be a reasonable price and the timescale for completing the work should be a reasonable timescale. For the first time, under the Consumer Rights Act, where a service is not done with reasonable care and skill, the consumer has a right to require the trader to repeat the work.

What can consumers do when they have a dispute with a business that they can't agree on?

The Consumer Rights Act allows for alternative dispute resolution to be used to try to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses, rather than having to go to the civil court. This should make settling disputes quicker and cheaper.

Where can consumers go for more advice?

If you are a consumer and you want more information on your rights under the Consumer Rights Act, they can visit the Citizens Advice website; www.citizensadvice.org.uk. The Citizens Advice provide some great practical examples of how the Consumer Rights Act will affect you, as a consumer in practice, which can be found here. If as a consumer you want advice about a problem you are having with goods or a service that do not meet your statutory rights, you can get specific advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.

Businesses can obtain more information on the Consumer Rights Act via the Business Companion website.

Here are some examples of how the Consumer Rights Act 2015 will affect you in practice

Where you have had a product for a while

Scenario:
You buy a mobility scooter and use it frequently over the course of five months. By the end of this time you notice that the battery is not performing properly or retaining its charge for long. The trader performs a repair but the scooter continues to perform poorly so you choose to reject it and get a refund.

Your rights:
Under the Act, because you had only had the scooter for five months, the trader must provide a full refund. If, however, you had rejected the scooter more than six months after you received it, the trader would have been entitled to reduce the refund to take account of the use that you had had of the goods.

Where you have had a product for a short time

Scenario:
You buy a toaster but find a week later, when you try to use it for the first time, that it won't turn on and the bread won't stay down. The toaster is not of satisfactory quality.

Your rights:
Under the Act, because you had had the faulty toaster for fewer than 30 days you are entitled to reject it for a full refund so you can return it to the shop. Because the fault is obvious there is no need for further testing and the trader must agree to provide a refund.

Faulty digital content

Scenario:
You pay to download a TV series which is described as containing all 13 episodes. When you download it you find that the final episode is missing.

Your rights:
Under the Act, the digital content is not as described. You are entitled to a repair or replacement of the digital content, to bring it in line with the description. In this instance, an appropriate remedy may be a download of the final episode.

Services not carried out with reasonable care and skill

Scenario:
A trader is contracted by you to decorate a room for a party. You inspect the work the day before it is due to be finished and say that it is not in line with the colour scheme you agreed with the trader's assistant. The trader phones the assistant, who agrees that you did specify the colour scheme.

Your rights:
Under the Act, you can ask the trader to re-do the decorating. Due to the purpose of the service, the trader would need to re-do the work before the party to have done so within a "reasonable time".

In the past year, over 200 consumer products were subject to product recalls because there was an issue with the safety of the goods. Each week, we send messages out via our Facebook page (North Yorkshire Trading Standards) and Twitter feed (@nyccts) on the latest products subject of recalls, using #CheckItTuesday.

All consumer products are required, by law, to be safe, however, there are a small number of instances where products are found not to be safe and the manufacturers and retailers need to take steps to recall  their products. You can find out how to register your appliances so that you are notified of any recalls or check all recalls using these websites: 

Electrical appliances

When buying large electrical appliances, there are several measures you can take to ensure that, if your appliance is subject to a product recall, you will be contacted regarding the recall. The first option is to complete the product registration card which is often included in the packaging of the appliance, which you can complete and generally post back to the manufacturer via freepost. If you have already thrown that product registration card out, the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances, supported by the Department if Business, Innovation and Skills, has created http://www.registermyappliance.org.uk. Via this website, you can register your appliances, to inform the manufacturers that you are an owner of their product. If one of those products is then unfortunately subject to a product recall, you can be contacted and the issue rectified.

If you choose not to register your electrical appliances, you may want to refer to the Electrical Safety First website. Electrical Safety First is a charity which was set up to reduce deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents. Its website provides details of recalls of electrical equipment.

Food recalls

For food products, the Food Standards Agency website provides food alerts about food recalls. The website carries both allergy alerts and general food alerts. The allergy alerts are a must for food allergy sufferers, letting you know about foods that may contain an allergen which has not been declared on the packaging. The food alerts make you aware of instances where the quality of a food product has found to be not as it should be, due to foreign bodies, or packaging not being safe.

Chartered Trading Standards Institute

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute website provides recall information, for all types of products, including those not provided by the Food Standards Agency and Electrical Safety First websites. It is updated whenever there is a new recall. 

If you ever have a safety concern regarding a product, please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 and an advisor will provide you with advice as to what action to take.

If your home has been damaged by the recent flooding or high winds, getting your house repaired will be something you will want completed as quickly as possible. North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards have the following advice to help make sure that remedial work goes ahead as smoothly as possible.

Do not agree to have work done by anyone who cold calls or door knocks at your property

Cold callers rarely give householders their contact details or provide them with details of their legal right to cancel a contract within 14 days. They may also tell you that work is required when it is not. If things go wrong you are unlikely to be able to contact the trader again and will have no guarantee for the work.

Obtain at least three quotes for any work

Obtaining a choice of written quotes ensures you can have time to assess and compare the price of work and can make an informed choice about which tradesperson to use.

Check trade body approval or certification

If a tradesperson claims to be a member of a trade body or approval scheme check whether this is true on the scheme or body website. There are advantages to using a trader who is a member of a trade body or approval scheme as they will have been vetted and it is likely that there will be a complaints or arbitration procedure in place in the event that anything goes wrong.     

For certain work, such as electrical or gas work, traders must be qualified and approved as fit to do that work. For gas work, traders must be registered with Gas Safe and you can check who is registered via the Gas Safe website. For electrical work, traders must be registered with NICEIC or ELECSA and you can check who is registered via the NICEIC website and via the ELECSA website. Always check before you engage a trader that they hold the appropriate authorisation to complete work safely and certify it to Buildings Regulations. As well as ensuring the work is safe, you will be required to have certification if you sell your home in the future.   

Do not pay the full contract price upfront

Legitimate tradespeople will generally not expect to be paid anything until work is completed to your satisfaction. You may be required to pay an amount upfront if the work involves expensive parts or fittings but you should only pay the full amount once the work is completed. If work is not satisfactory, the law allows you to withhold a reasonable percentage to reflect any deficiencies in the work.

Speak to your insurance company

If you are insured, make sure you speak to your insurance company before arranging for work to be done. The insurance company may well have their own list of approved contractors or will want to see quotes before they agree to pay for work.

We hope that everything goes well with the repairs to your home but if you do need more specific advice at any stage you can ring the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06. Alternatively, you can contact the Helpline via their website. The Citizens Advice website also has guidance on ways to find a trustworthy trader.

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