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Sunday, 7 August 2011

False claim about validity of warranty

It remains a common misconception that a car must be serviced by an authorised workshop if the warranty is to remain valid. Another popular misconception is that the block exemption changed this situation a few years ago. In fact the Office of Fair Trading put a stop to it in this country years ago, and the new block exemption reveals the Commission's resolution to do something about it. But whether because of a misconception or otherwise, advertising on the basis that using an authorised workshop is mandatory in this sense can land you in trouble.

Dumfries and Galloway Trading Standards have recently publicised an instance - let's not call it a case, because there's nothing in the press release to say that proceedings were issued - of a garage doing precisely that. In fact, according to the Dumfries & Galloway Standard, it seems that the Council simply required the garage to write to customers to undo the mischief, which seems fair enough. They don't know whether this is a widespread problem, and thought it worth highlighting it - so it's not really a matter of penalising the one garage.

In days gone by, this would have raised false trade description problems. Now the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 is no more, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 occupies the field. Misleading advertising like that is likely to constitute an offence under the Regulations - as it would have done under the old Act. Provided, of course, that the necessary mens rea can be shown, which - given the degree of ignorance of the law on warranties - might be very tricky.

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