Can a dealer refuse to reject a car bought and paid for online under distance selling regulations?

distance selling regulations

Our reader carried out the whole car buying process online. They then went to the dealer’s showroom to take delivery of the car. After six days, the reader wanted to reject the car under distance selling regulations. However, the dealer refused to accept their rejection. We investigate whether they can do this. Please note: distance selling regulations only apply to something bought from a company; they don’t apply to private sales.

What are distance selling regulations?

If you buy something at a distance – usually online these days – the law says you have 14 days to cancel it. You are also entitled to a full refund. You don’t have to give any reason for cancelling the order and rejecting the item.

There are some exceptions but buying a car isn’t one of them. Our reader tried to reject his car after owning it for just six days. The dealership refused so the reader had no choice but to continue driving the car while the dispute was resolved.

Does collecting a car void these rules?

distance selling regulations
If you research and pay for a car online but collect it in person, you can still reject it (Picture©G Force)

Some car makers such as DS Automobiles offer a service where you can buy the car online and it will be delivered to a location of your choice. This didn’t apply in our case: the reader visited the showroom for a handover. As a result of this, the dealership said no distance sale had taken place. It also refused the customer’s claim to reject the vehicle.

Guidance from The Motor Ombudsman (TMO) said: “If you have ordered the car, signed all of the relevant documentation and paid for it completely at a distance, normally online, this will count as a distance sale even if you then go and collect the vehicle from the showroom.”

This is because when the customer visited the dealership, they had already concluded the transaction. They had signed the contract and paid for the car online. In return they’d received a written confirmation from the dealership that the deal was concluded.

When they visited the dealer’s showroom, it was simply to pick the car up and sign a handover note.

What if you drive the vehicle after rejecting it?

As the dealership had refused his rejection, our reader had to continue driving the car. In the meantime, they appealed it with TMO. This independent body ruled that the dealer was wrong not to accept his rejection. The dealer accepted TMO’s ruling.

However, in the meantime, our reader had covered more than 2,000 miles in the vehicle. This means that rather than the full refund they would have been entitled to, our reader was owed a refund. But this had to include an appropriate deduction to take into account the use they’d had of the vehicle while their case was considered by TMO.

What does this mean for car buyers?

Do not let yourself be bullied by car dealers as our reader might have. If you think you’re in the right, as our reader did, do as they did. Contact an independent arbitration service for the trade such as TMO. At the very least this should be able to clarify who is in the right.

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