Utilising the Sale of Goods Act at Static Holiday Caravan Parks
Our Advice Team are still receiving a great deal of contact from members in connection with faults following the purchase of a holiday caravan. These range in severity from broken light fittings and missing trim, to warped flooring and structural integrity issues.
Now, you need to remember that caravans are hand built, and following the transportation from manufacturer to park then on to your pitch, you might have a few teething problems with bits and pieces. In most circumstances these issues are minor and are rectified by the manufacturer quickly and efficiently. However, in some rare situations the problems are too extensive to put right. What should you do?
Firstly, your rights are against the retailer – the company that sold you the product – not the manufacturer, and so you must make any claim against the retailer. In the case of your caravan, it will be the park operator or sales agent that sold you the caravan.
However, the Sale of Goods Act doesn’t apply to goods you've bought on hire purchase (HP). Instead the Supply of Goods Implied Terms Act 1973 applies, which makes the HP company responsible for the quality of the goods supplied and gives you slightly different rights.
The Sale of Goods Act (SOGA) and associated laws and regulations set out your legal rights as a consumer. These are briefly summarised below.
All goods must be:
- as described
- of satisfactory quality, and;
- fit for purpose
If they're not, you may be legally entitled to a refund or a repair or replacement. What you are entitled to will depend on a number of factors.
You do not have a legal right to receive a refund, repair or replacement for any of the reasons listed below:
- fair wear and tear
- accidental damage or misuse of the item
- if you don’t want the item any more, for example it is the wrong size or colour
- if you knew the item was faulty when you bought it
- if you misused the item and caused a fault
- if you tried to repair the item or had someone else try to repair it, which damaged the item
- if it is over six years since you purchased the item, or for goods purchased in Scotland, if it is over five years since you discovered the fault.
If you buy a caravan that turns out to be faulty, you can choose to reject it which means you can give it back and get a refund. However, the law only gives you a reasonable amount of time to do this – what's reasonable depends on the product and how obvious the fault is.
When considering a holiday caravan, some issues might not be apparent for some time, so it’s really important to give your new caravan a thorough check and inspection when you get the keys. You can use our checklist, available on our website or by calling the office. However, it’s safest to work on the basis you usually have no more than three to four weeks from when you receive it to reject it.
Getting your faulty caravan replaced or repaired
If it’s too late to reject your caravan, or the faults aren’t substantial, you have the right to repair or replace. You can ask your park operator or sales agent to do either, but they can normally choose to do whatever would be the most cost effective. Unless it’s a specific item with a fault, such as an appliance, the most common route is to repair the unit.
Under the Sale of Goods Act, the park or sales agent must either repair or replace 'within a reasonable time but without causing significant inconvenience'.
If this doesn’t happen, you're entitled to claim either:
- a reduction on the purchase price, or
- your money back, minus an amount for the usage you've had of the caravan (called recision)
If the retailer refuses to repair the goods, and they won't replace them either, you may have the right to arrange for someone else to repair your item, and then claim compensation from the retailer for the cost of doing this.
You have six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; in Scotland you have five years.
Proving your claim for faulty goods
If your claim under the Sale of Goods Act ends up in court, you may have to prove that the fault was present when you bought the item and not, for example, something which was the result of normal wear and tear.
If your claim is about a problem that arises within six months of buying the product, it's up to the retailer to prove that the goods were of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, or as described when it sold them. For example, by showing that the problem was caused by an external factor such as accidental damage.
Beyond six months, it's up to you to prove that the problem was there when you received the goods even if it has taken until now to come to light. So, you may need to prove that the fault was not down to ordinary wear and tear or damage you caused, and that the product (or a component) should have lasted longer than it did. To do this you may need an expert's report, for example, from an engineer or a mechanic. Always try to keep the cost of any report proportionate to the value of the claim and, if you can, try to agree on an expert you and the seller both agree has the necessary expertise.
Obtaining an expert opinion or report in respect of static holiday caravans can sometimes be a little more difficult, but as an organisation NACO have found engineers and repairers across the UK who will undertake this type or work.