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“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?
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