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The consumer’s issue:

“Around 14 months after I bought my 2013 plate used vehicle, it was discovered that the battery well under the boot floor was flooded with rainwater which had caused extensive damage to the electrical systems housed in the well. The extended warranty provider refused to pay for the repairs as they believed the ingress was due to wear and tear. I expect such seals to last for the lifetime of the vehicle, around 20 years, and that as the leak was so small, it would have taken some time for it to occur. There are other similar reported faults as it is a common failure. I am looking for a refund of £1,350 to cover the full cost of the repairs.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • The consumer has required two repairs – one to the front of the car and one to the rear.
  • The one to the front has been covered under the extended warranty, but the repair to the rear has been declined on the basis that the parts are wear and tear items.
  • It has been confirmed that the water ingress was due to a split in a seal which lies between the rear vent and car body, and that this has worn over time.
  • We have offered 50% contribution towards the cost of the repair which we think is fair in the circumstances.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator reviewed the case and found that there was no technical evidence to support that the seal had failed due to a manufacturing defect.
  • Additionally, it is not surprising for a seal to wear over time which made the conclusion more plausible.
  • The consumer therefore sought an independent technical report. This showed that, in the expert’s opinion, the seal had not failed due to wear and tear, but due to either incorrect removal or incorrect fitting at manufacture.
  • However, it was also the expert’s opinion that the water ingress which caused the electrical damage was as a result of an impact to the rear lights and not the failed seal.
  • The adjudicator looked at this new information and found that although she had evidence showing that the seal most likely failed due to a manufacturing defect, the actual cause of the water ingress was an external influence – an impact – meaning the repair would still be excluded under warranty.
  • The consumer asked for the case to be referred to the ombudsman for a final decision.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman looked carefully at the warranty terms and conditions and found that although this was a manufacturer’s extended warranty, it was still an extended warranty. Therefore, the question to consider was not whether there was a manufacturing defect in the vehicle, but whether it had suffered a “sudden and unexpected failure” in accordance with the terms of the warranty.
  • Here, the ombudsman felt that this was an unexpected failure, but not sudden, as the water ingress was something that had happened over time.
  • This was supported by the expert report which also showed that the most likely cause of the damage was an impact, which is also excluded under the warranty.
  • All things considered, there was more evidence to support the repair being excluded under warranty than included.
  • As such, the 50% goodwill contribution from the business was reasonable, and the ombudsman asked for this to be upheld.

Conclusion:

  • The technical evidence demonstrated that the repair was excluded under warranty. As a result, there was no breach of the Vehicle Warranty Products Code, and the accredited business was asked to uphold their gesture of goodwill.


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