I was asked about Auto Trader adverts by someone who bought a car via that platform. The first thing to bear in mind is that any advert is not a legally binding contract and is simply ‘an invitation to treat’. This means that you are merely invited to make an offer.

That does not give retailers a get out of jail card to deliberately post misleading adverts though. Mistakes happen and retailers have rights as well as consumers. Furthermore, consumers have a duty and responsibility to check the specification and facts before entering in to a contract.

BACKGROUND

I recently purchased a car from Evans Halshaw via their move it closer scheme. When the car arrived, I viewed it and decided to buy it.

Having owned the car for a week or so I’ve noticed it doesn’t have many features that was mentioned in the Auto Trader advert that I originally viewed the car on. Is this something that I can use to get a refund via the Consumer Rights Act 2015?

The only sticking point I can see with my dispute is the fact the advert was on Auto Trader and not on Evans Halshaw’s website. Would you foresee this to be a problem? (I have copies of the advert).

Having read through the relevant chapters of your book, am I right in thinking that I can use two pieces of legislation to return the car? Misrepresentation Act 1967 and Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Alas the car isn’t on credit, paid £13,220 via bank transfer. I have noticed some Evans Halshaw small print in my agreement with them where they try and negate the Misrepresentation Act 1967. Shall I still mention it or rely solely on the Consumer Rights Act 2015?

MY INITIAL RESPONSE

My reply based on this (without knowing the full story) was that although the advert was placed on a third-party website, the vehicle was sold on that basis so you will be able to hold them liable under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Misrepresentation Act 1967.

REPLY FROM EVANS HALSHAW

This response from Evans Halshaw painted a different story;

“Good afternoon Mr R,

Thank you for the video. I note you are looking on an Auto Trader advert listing the specification. Auto Trader is not owned by Evans Halshaw and as such posts a disclaimer at the bottom of its adverts in all cases.

We select 15 to 20 areas of specification for our own website advert which has no bearing on Auto Trader’s adverts.

I also note that you attended the dealership to view the vehicle and decided against purchase on the first occasion, then returned at a later date and looked over the vehicle once again, renegotiated with my team and decided to go ahead with the purchase and finally personally attended the dealership to collect the vehicle”.

MY CLOSING REPLY

My reply here explains the position;

Hi,

Whilst Auto Trader adverts are outside of Evans Halshaw’s remit and control per-se, it’s Evans Halshaw that actually creates the adverts to be posted on a third-party website.

Advertisements are not a binding offer and are merely classed as an ‘invitation to treat’, meaning that they are inviting you to make an offer.

Retailers have rights as well as consumers and you’re going to struggle based on what you have told me now. It’s clear from what they have said that you have haggled over the price and had ample opportunity on more than one occasion to spot the various items you claim were not listed on the advert.

Whilst the advert may have been misleading (and probably was), consumers have a duty and responsibility to check as well. Personally, I think you’re going to struggle here given what they have said. The only way you’re going to fight this is to evidence that the vehicle does not meet the Consumer Rights Act 2015

If you can prove that, then the Misrepresentation Act 1967 kicks in as a ‘belt and braces’ to support a claim”.

CONCLUSION

Any complaint that you make has to be legitimate and hold water.

You can’t hold a retailer responsible for misleading you if you have been given ample opportunity to check the spec, haggle over the price (probably based on the missing items) and try and lodge a complaint afterwards.

Even the worst retailers occasionally do the right thing and retailers have rights as well as consumers.

Note: This dispute is ongoing. The customer disputes Evans Halshaw’s response and this has not yet been concluded (7th November 2019). I will update it when it has been concluded.

What are your thoughts on this?

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