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.
What is distance selling?
Distance selling is when you buy a car but the contract is NOT signed on the dealer’s premises. You pay for and take delivery of the vehicle without any face-to-face contact with the dealer.
What are distance selling regulations for cars in the UK?
If you buy something at a distance – which frequently means online these days – the law says you can cancel the order within 14 days and get 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.
What is buying a car long distance from a UK dealer?
This is when you might live in Plymouth and decide to buy a car online from a dealership in Portsmouth.
But for it to count as a distance sale under the 14-day distance selling regulations, you must not visit the retailer’s premises at any time during the sales process. That includes for you to pay any deposit and sign any paperwork.
Is Click and Collect the same as a distance sale?
No. When you do Click and Collect, you usually order the car online. You then go into the dealership to sign the paperwork. This nullifies distance selling regulations.
In this case, you’re covered by the regular Consumer Rights Act. When you’re buying a new car, some car makers offer reassurance by applying a 14-day return police to Click and Collect cars.
According to guidance from The Motor Ombudsman (TMO) “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.”
When our reader visited the dealership, they had already concluded the transaction. They had signed the contract and paid for the car online and in return 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 I change my mind after a distance sale?
You should contact the dealership the moment you’ve made up your mind to reject the car. But for distance selling regulations to apply, this must be within 14 days of taking delivery of the car. And all the above conditions to the sale must apply.
Can you reject a car under distance selling if you’ve driven it?
As the dealership had refused our reader’s rejection, they had to continue driving the car while appealing it with TMO. This independent body ruled that the dealer was wrong not to accept their rejection and the dealer accepted the TMO’s ruling.
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 with an appropriate deduction. This accounted for the use they’d had of the vehicle while their case was considered by TMO.
What do the 14-day distance selling regulations mean?
On the one hand, they give you peace of mind that if you buy a car without seeing it or driving it first, you can get a refund if you don’t like it. But it’s not like buying a pair of trousers that may not be quite the right cut. Because of the large amounts of money in question, car dealers can be reluctant to accept returned cars they’ve already sold.
Do not let yourself be bullied by dealers as our reader might have. If you think you’re in the right, as they did, do as our reader did and 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.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.