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MILS Case Study: Satisfaction NotesBack

MILSLogo2“We have a customer who had their vehicle serviced with us and signed a satisfaction note upon collection. Two days later the customer then called to say there was damage on the vehicle to the tune of £600. Where do we stand?”

On the face of it this seems a simple question. Where the customer has signed a statement that they have inspected the vehicle and are satisfied there is no damage then this is defensible and any liability can be denied.

That said, it will depend on the access the customer had to the vehicle before signing the statement. If this is signed at your office without any inspection of the vehicle, then a customer will find it easy to get around. How can you protect yourself against such claims and reduce the risk to your business?

  1. Inspection upon delivery. This is the first step to prevent such claims, but it is not without its risks. If you choose to carry out such an inspection you need to be sure that you are actually accurately noting damage and that the information is kept for a sufficient period of time, if you don’t then this actually makes a claim more likely to succeed. It is not uncommon for a rushed technician to miss details. If this report does not identify any damage as present, then any damage on collection will be easier to claim. Consider whether digital photos can be taken. These are quick and give a very good overall impression of a vehicle.
  2. Inspection on Collection. An inspection on collection will ensure that any satisfaction note is more difficult to challenge, particularly if the customer is given the time needed to review your work. Consider accompanying the client so that you can describe your work and ensure that any issues are raised in your presence. This can help nip any problems in the bud. The more time given the more difficult it will be for a customer to change their mind. Again consider photos of the vehicle after the work is completed.
  3. Keep sufficient records. You lose a significant portion of the benefit if you have no evidence that the customer was satisfied. How long this is required will depend on the work.

As a motor trader, particularly when dealing with consumers, you will have a duty to take reasonable care of any vehicles within your possession. If damage does occur this can be your responsibility to fix, depending on the facts. If you want to get the best protection from any such statement you need to ensure that the customer is given sufficient opportunity to inspect their vehicle both inside and out prior to signing it and removing the vehicle from your premises. The more time that is given the more likely a court will be to hold the statement as binding. In this case the inspection was of some benefit but ultimately as the damage was inside it could not be relied upon as the customer had not looked inside prior to signing.

Don’t forget, this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one particular situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, as well as a number of industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.

Paul Carroll, Solicitor, Motor Industry Legal Services

Posted by Sue Robinson on 28/10/2016