Friday, July 06, 2007

Are you sitting comfortably....

.... because this is one consumer story to beat all others.

Remember this?

Well I went to collect it from Carcraft yesterday. I handed over the key to my old car with the log book and paid for the new one. I got the log book, it was taxed and insured for me, the V5 registration documents had already been sent off for me. All very smooth. I went to the area where they drive the car round for me to be shown the controls and the salesgirl was away for ages. She returned looking nervous with a sheepish looking guy who proceeded to tell me that there was a problem because they had put my old car on the hoist and realised that it had been in an accident and that they had to reduce the trade in price they had agreeed by £1000.
I pointed out that they were actually too late becuase they'd sold the new car and in any event they had actually inspected the car once (besides which as consumer whilst I may not actively misrepresent the condition of the car, they failed to ask me the rather crucial question about past damage and a consumer I have no obligation to inform a business seller!) He jumped up with alacrity to get the manager, looking rather grateful to get out of the conversation! When the manager arrived he was treated to a little lecture about contract law but he didn't seem tobe a good student as his instransigent position was that either I could pay the extra £1000 and take the car or pay the whole price and sell my car privately. I suggested an alternative, namely that they hand over the keys to the new car I owned.
This went on for some time and reached an incredibly ridiclous impass where he was unable to explain how he thought he had a right to to retain the car but was doing so anyway. So, with a great deal of reluctance after well over an hour I called the Police.
Now the Police will not come out to a civil dispute so I told then my car keys were being stolen. I also ran my husband to come over for company and my colleague in chambers to come and collect the papers I was taking home for him for his trial the next day. He is a criminal practitioner and pointed out that the offence of taking a car without the owners consent was more apt. So when the Police called back forty five minutes to say they weren't coming I altered my complaint, insisted very calmly and they came within 10 minutes!
They looked at all the documents and couldn't beleve what was happening. For well over another hour they were talking to the manager. We had fun watching them blocking him in with his back to a corner of the office. However, they failed to persuade him to hand over the keys, and he claimed that a director in Rochdale was telling him to keep the car so the Police were - rightly - of the view that it was the director who should be arrested if anyone. As arresting someone was was not the point anyway, they agreed to try again but still no keys even though he was told very firmly that he was risking big heampum litigation and car hire costs! So at 9.20, twenty minutes after the garage closed I left with neither set of keys and no means of gettng to work in Macclesfield the next day.
I could not believe this was happening. What do you do to get a car back in those circumstances? Well you issue a claim for conversion in tort, breach of contract, and injunctive relief under Part 25 of the Civil Procedure Rules. Which creates lots of paperwork. So I went home and prepared that, then prepared my two lever arch file brief for court today and went to bed at 2.15. At 5.25 I awoke with a sudden concern about the law on conditions/ warranties in contracts and had to get up to look it up and prove myself right by which time it was time to get up anyway. Fortunately my sister had volunteered to help out so I took Dennis' car and she took him to work. On her way home she personally served a letter before action for me.
The 3 page letter in essence said that whatever their case was they couldn't possibly own both cars. They could either give me the Primera and sue me for £1000 or they could repudiate the contract without my consent and return the Vectra and I would sue them for breach of contract. They had until 12 noon to pick one or the other or I would issue the injunction proceedings to get the car back for the weekend or at least early next week.
At 12 noon, no response faxed to my chambers. So I rang, got a different, slightly more junior member of managment who had not seen the letter but provided a text book example of how to deal with complaints, acing swiftly and ringing frequently to keep me up to date. As I paced up and down in Macclesfield with papers in my hand and Judge on alert that I would be coming in before his 2pm list, he looked into it. Forty minutes after he first heard about it I happily agreed to pay an extra £253 which meant that they just broke even on the deal and I got the new car.
Dennis took me later to collect it and they had filled it with petrol for me. There was one small part I knew was missing that was ordered that I was going to collect later and they promised that they would send a fitter out to me to do it, rather than me having to go to them. All the staff who had served me told they thought it was great that I had called the Police to their manager ( who was not in so they could speak freely) We got the distinct impression that he was not a well loved man! I would say a rather ignorant little bully who picked on the wrong person! The stupidity was that had the car been £1000 dearer in the showroom to start with it would not have been the excellent deal it was but it would still have been a little cheaper than an equivalent car at the Nissan dealers and I probably would still have bought it. But it was the principle of it -their bare faced cheek and insitance despite being utterly in the wrong. Even my sister said, 'if he tries that with you, imagine how many other people have just given in.'
All the other staff were great and when my sister was there they were coming up to her asking her to tell me that they hoped it all worked out for me. The second mangaer ( who was not in the day before) actually said he was sorry the bad one hadn't been arrested as it would have been great at the Christmas party! I am also told that the internal procedure on when they inspect trade in cars for a vaulation changed today.
So I have the car. Oh and for reason I missed out to keep this from taking you all week to read, they refunded the whole of the original payment and started again, but forgot that I had payed for car tax first time round so they got the figures wrong and only charged me £163!!
Plus that pacing up and down I was doing was outside the court as I was afraid I would fall asleep if I didn't get fresh air. I found a wool/ cross stitch shop and when the salewoman asked if she could help me, I explained that I didn't knit, but that I was a sad and exceedingly tired quilter and wanted to be with pretty colours and soft fluffy things for a while. She let me stroke some sari ribbon and gossemer like wool, then sent me down the road to a fabric off cut shop in an old mill and there I found perhaps 40 or so quilting cottons ( bought 1/2 metres of 2!) some polyester silk looking stuff to experiment with on my afro-american quilt and six cute buttons!
So now I am happy but knackered and behind on the gift quilt, so you may have to excuse a missing blog tomorrow but I really really hope that I show you a finished top by Sunday evening. Keep fingers crossed for me!


Brenda said...

This makes my pitiful consumer tales pale into insignificance. It is indeed fortunate that you had the knowledge and disposition (not to mention legal firepower) to deal with this matter. How many others would simply have handed over the 1000 quid?

Vicki W said...

Holy cow! What a story! Glad you stood your ground.

Susan D said...

I have a rough idea of what my rights are as a consumer but he sure picked on the wrong girl with you. Doesn't sound as if he was liked by his own staff either.

Helen said...

Wow, great that you had the energy to deal with this effectively. Modern life can be so demanding that a lot of people would cave in because it is "easier". I can't believe their (his?) attitude, though. Whatever happened to goodwill? It used to be be a business asset. Do they count it as a cost now?

katelnorth said...

Oh Helen. good for you, but how intensely tiring. heck, i'm tired just reading about it.