A car is considered to have a defect if it proves to be poorer in terms of its quality or features than a comparable car, or if it does not conform to the details provided by the vendor.
Normal wear and tear is not a defect
Defects caused by normal wear and tear are not defects as far as the statutory liability for defects is concerned. In estimating this, the following will be considered:
- total kilometres driven in the car
- purchase price
- cost of repairs
- time elapsed since the transaction
If a defect emerges within six months of the car being delivered to the buyer, the assumption is that the defect was already present in the car at the time of the sale. This assumption will hold, unless:
- the vendor can demonstrate that the defect did not exist at the time of delivery,
- the assumption is contrary to the nature of the defect.
In Germany, it is possible to limit liability for defects to a period of one year from the time of delivery, and this is often done. Even the maximum period for liability for defects is no more than two years.
When you notice a defect, immediately send a complaint to the vendor, and to the broker too if necessary:
- in writing, and
- within two months
If you do not send your complaint in time, you will forfeit your right to claim compensation because of the defect.
A defective car must be repaired by the vendor
You must send the complaint before the car is actually repaired, unless the car breaks down on the road or otherwise requires immediate repairs. The principal way to correct a defect is for the vendor to have the car repaired free of charge for the buyer.
In cross-border transactions, other means of correcting defects are usually more feasible. Sometimes a vendor may be able to supply the required spare parts. In any case, it is a good idea to give the vendor an opportunity to suggest a way of correcting the defect.
If you bought the car in Germany, you may forfeit your right to compensation completely if you have not:
- given the vendor the opportunity to repair the car, and
- set a deadline by which the car must be repaired.
In practice, a reasonable deadline should be set. Not until the deadline has expired may you have the car repaired yourself and present a claim to the vendor for a discount.
If you must have the car repaired yourself:
- ask the repair service to provide you with a written defect report to demonstrate what was wrong, and
- keep the faulty parts.
Other ways of correcting a defect
Apart from repair, the following are possible ways of correcting a defect:
- exchanging the item for a non-defective one
- giving a discount on the purchase price
- cancelling the transaction, except if the defect is a minor one
In practice, in cross-border trade the vendor generally corrects a defect by giving a price discount.