Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Car dealerships? Should legal technicalities outweigh moral responsibility?

Usually my blogs are my perspective or opinion on current events or news stories that relate to the recruitment industry or work in general but I've got a bee in my bonnet today about a car dealership that up until yesterday I thought was the best of a bad bunch so had to talk about this.

Without naming names I know that a great majority of any drivers who have experience buying used cars has a horror story or less dramatically a bad experience with the company they have dealt with – we all know the main players in this industry. Well this one is another one of these that has really annoyed me and I would appreciate your perspective or advice on the issue.

Basically, I bought a used car almost a year ago and it came with one year warranty - which I thought was great. Since I've had the car there has been a noise coming from the left hand side when I drive on motorways or expressways for any longer than 15 minutes or so. I have had the car in to get looked at on numerous occasions and still the noise persists. I was aware that if the warranty expired without this being resolved, I would have to pay so called the company who I will not name for assistance twice and was promised a call back – which never happened after a few weeks, no surprise.

Then out of the blue someone called from the company, I presumed to deal with my car issue but it turned out it was actually to sell me a ‘service’ which I politely declined as I was unhappy that the other issue had still not been resolved. The man I dealt with seemed very helpful and insisted he would help me even though it wasn’t ‘his job’ – he booked my car in to get looked at and I was satisfied that finally I was getting listened to. Just as the details of the appointment were being confirmed the man asked if I wanted a ‘service’ on the car at the same time – you can’t blame the man for trying. I again politely declined and said that if this issue was resolved I would consider getting my car serviced with the company when the MOT was due and kill two birds with one stone. The call ended and I was happy that the issue may finally be resolved.

A couple of weeks passed and the day my car was due to go in arrived, a man came to collect the car and my husband handed him the keys and signed to say it was picked up – so he was told. I then received a call to say my car was going to be dropped off and I was to pay the balance to the delivery man for the ‘Gold Service’ they had carried out. I was obviously slightly confused as I had at no point requested this work. I explained the original conversation I had with ‘Mr. Helpful’ and my anger that the man had booked me in for a ‘Gold Service’ when I made it perfectly clear I did not want that work carried out. He said he would look into it and I got a call back around 5.30pm from a woman in the services department to say I had to pay the £90 balance in order to get my car back – livid is the only word I can use to describe how I felt at this point.

I needed the car back to drop my daughter in the morning and to go to work so explained the situation again but was met with numerous responses that basically came down to pay or you won’t get the car back. They claimed that when my husband signed for the car to be taken in the morning that it was a ‘job card’ and it’s legally binding that I agreed to the work – in retrospect obviously he should have read thoroughly what he signed instead of taking the man’s word for it – we didn’t get a copy of what he signed for so I can’t be sure if it was or wasn’t. Maybe saying my car was held to ransom is dramatic but that’s what it felt like. I agreed to give them a cheque so that I could get my car back but was extremely reluctant and unhappy with the situation.

As it stands now, I contacted Consumer Direct to see if they could help me and they said that if my husband did sign a ‘job card’ then I may not have any grounds to claim the money back. I also contacted a manager at the dealership with my concerns and explained the situation and he said he would ‘look into it’ but I’m not holding my breath on that result either.

My issue is why these types of companies get away with firstly processing unauthorized work and then getting payment for work I did not want carried out by forcing me to pay or remain without a car? I know that the law is the law and it’s not a good idea to sign something that hasn’t been thoroughly read but that is an issue I have highlighted to my husband – I don’t think he will sign anything else without reading it.

Does anyone else agree that this company should face the consequences of morally wrong sales procedures, rather than using legalities to force payment for unwanted work?

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