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Consumer Law Question & Answer

Typical RapidResponse Question and Answer.
Question : Consumer Law

I recently returned a lease car back to Citroen, however they are trying to charge me for the service history and manual not being returned back with the car.

This was never supplied to me and I have written evidence from the broker who supplied the car that the service history would be forwarded, Citroen are trying to claim for damage £320 which is in my contract, however I cannot see that they can charge me for something that was never in my possession.

I checked with Citroen and a new service book is no more than £15, the car could not have been de-valued at auction as the car was returned with low mileage and thus never flagged up that it needed a service, hence I would have looked for the book, they are saying that it was my responsibility to make sure I had the service book, I had just had a baby at the time and it would not have crossed my mind after a few days that the book had never arrived in the post.

As I see it as a consumer the supplier should have made sure everything was in place, it was marked on the delivery paperwork that the car was supplied without the service history.

Letters keep going backwards and forwards and they keep bringing up the contract that they class it as damage if the car is returned without service history......please advise if I have a leg to stand on !!

Answer : Consumer Law

I am asked to advise Ms xxxx xxxx (the Petitioner) with regard to what she asserts are excessive charges levied by Citroen, the owners of a motor vehicle leased through a broker (unnamed).

The Petitioner leased the motor vehicle for an unspecified period of time and has now returned the vehicle presumably as per the lease contract terms. Included in those terms and conditions of lease from Citroen was a stipulation that the non return of the vehicle service history and owner`s manual would be classed as damage to the vehicle and a charge of £320.00 would be levied.

Upon returning the vehicle without a service history and manual this payment has been demanded by Citroen from the Petitioner.

The Petitioner asserts however that no service history nor owner`s manual were supplied with the vehicle when she took possession. Further the Petitioner has written confirmation from the unnamed broker who supplied the vehicle, that indeed the vehicle was delivered to the Petitioner without a service history, and that one would be forwarded at an unspecified date.

The Petitioner is now apparently receiving regular demands from Citroen for payment of £320.00 as specified in her contract terms. The Petitioner feels this to be unreasonable and requests advice regarding her legal liability for this demand and any possible remedy.

It is becoming increasingly the case that consumers are falling foul of excessive and (apparent) unreasonable charges imposed by car hire and lease companies following a period of rental or lease. Most often (as here) these demands are penalties for alleged non compliance with stipulated terms and conditions written into the contract for hire or lease.

The fact that in many cases the consumer had little control over the circumstances of the alleged non compliance was a moot point with the companies involved who would often claim the charges through the consumer`s credit card. Very often the first the consumer would be aware of such a circumstance would be notification from the relevant company or the consumer`s own bank that the funds had been withdrawn from their account.

This practice, although unsavoury, is completely legal, as it is a practice sanctioned by the consumer in the contract terms of their hire or lease agreement. Whether they were aware of it or not; and of course once the money had been accessed by a company for this reason it became very difficult to argue a case for reimbursement.

However, it appears to be the case here that Citroen, who are making the demand, have no such recourse. Their demands, at this point, are limited to (presumed) notices of payment or pre action letters (where you are informed of their intention to take court action to recover monies plus costs).

It is therefore recommended that you take the following steps. Firstly write a letter to Citroen strongly refuting their claim for the £320.00. State your position that no service history nor owner`s manual was supplied with the car. Inform them of your documentation from the broker that (in the case of the service history at least) none was delivered with the vehicle and state most importantly your determination to defend any action taken by Citroen most vigourously in court.

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 is legislation specifically designed to protect consumers in circumstances such as this. Basically the regulations state that any terms that are unfair or unreasonable contained within a contract may not be binding. Inform Citroen that upon legal advice it is your intention to rely upon this legislation in your defence of any action taken by them to recover the £ 320.00, and that further, in such a circumstance you would seek to recover damages from Citroen.

Secondly, write a letter to the broker of the leased vehicle. Inform them of the position taken by Citroen with regard to the service history and owner`s manual. Clearly inform them of your intention to name them in a Part 20 defence form should the matter be taken to court. In simple terms, a Part 20 form states that another person or body is liable for the matter before the court. Remind them that you hold documentation from them regarding the missing history (and manual by association) and demand that they contact Citroen directly to deal with this issue.

The effect of such correspondence hopefully may be sufficient to curtail any further demands for payment. You should keep all return correspondence from the broker and Citroen as well as a record of any telephone calls. Lawyers4U has a drafting department that will upon instruction draft the discussed letters to Citroen and the vehicle broker for a small fee. For further information contact us via our the Self Representation section of our website.

However, it should be remembered that in essence here you are calling their (Citroen) bluff. You should keep in mind that you may find yourself in a situation whereby you will have to decide whether to defend any action by Citroen, ignore their demands and risk a CCJ, or simply pay up.

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