How to complain about a second hand car

What to do when your secondhand car purchase goes wrong

steering wheel and dashboard

When things go wrong after a test drive – you can complain

Elaine lives in Formby, Merseyside and bought a car from a local dealer. The vehicle was a Vauxhall Meriva 2011 model.

The test drive was good but she agreed with the dealer that he would replace the cam belt a week after she collected it from the garage. When Elaine collected the car and drove it away she heard a grinding noise which wasn’t present at the test drive. She contacted the dealer who said he would check it over when they changed the cam belt.

Secondhand car issues

 Over the next few days other issues arose. Elaine noticed:

1) The boot liner had not been fixed. This was one of the things that should have been corrected before she collected the car.

2) The gear stick moved up and down when in gear and moving.

3) The electric handbrake didn’t work properly when reversing uphill. It would still roll forward even when she applied the accelerator and was in reverse.

4) The air conditioning didn’t work.

5) The brakes were grinding as reported on an advisory on the MOT the year before. This was not noted in the MOT that was completed the day before she collected the vehicle. However, Elaine felt that they had not been done.

6) The gearbox needed new bearings.

The car went back to the dealers for the cam belt, as arranged, and Elaine provided the list of other faults.

Elaine was given a courtesy car to use while hers was being fixed. She described it as “the loaner from the Jim Carey film The Mask. Disgustingly dirty inside and out. Dodgy clutch, cigarette ash in every nook and cranny. I also think that the starter motor was on way out. I got stuck in a multi storey car park as I struggled to get it started.”

Returning the car for a refund

By now, Elaine had had enough and decided she wanted her money back. Her boyfriend took the loan car back to the dealer and told him Elaine would not drive it.

He got the Meriva  back, although it was still not fixed. She was told that she could not have refund.

That’s when Elaine contacted me!

The Complaining Cow advises on returning a second hand car for a refund

Elaine took my advice and returned the car to the dealer and so stopped using it completely. She informed them that she was rejecting the car. I advised that she followed this up with a letter of rejection. By now she had received her copy of my book! So she was able to use the template letter to file a formal letter of complaint!

The following day the car dealer boss telephoned Elaine and agreed to a full refund. Elaine was delighted with how easy it was. “Happy days! Thank you for your help”, she told me.

Need help in getting a refund for car?

4 cars in grid square with title caption


See All you need to know about car purchasing, financing and garages for more information and advice regarding how to complain about cars and garages.




How to complain effectively, Top 20 Tips to ensure you get what you want form complaint letters.

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For more templates, advice, information on holidays and most other sectors Get the Book! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! 

front of a red car grass in background how to complain about a second hand car


Spa customer service treatment with a smile – even when things go wrong…

How a company can provide good service

Companies always make mistakes. After all, they’re made up of humans and to err is human. What is important to me, as a consumer champion, is how companies deal with the mistakes and get them resolved.

A couple of years ago I took out a course of pro-active facial treatments with Clarins. The deal was 6 sessions for the price of 4, at the Debenhams store at Lakeside, Thurrock. I don’t go to Lakeside very often so was taking a very long time to use up the sessions! But you should know that this does not matter as if you have any issues up to 6 years after purchase consumer law is still on your side.

So what happened?

Well, when I went for the second one there was no head massage whilst the mask was applied. I was told that this was no longer part of the treatment.

various Clarins treatments

When I paid for the 6 facials I was told that this was included. You may find this very trivial but those facials aren’t cheap and I know what I paid for!

So, I wrote to customer services. I told them that to remove it mid-program is against consumer law. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 to be specific. I told them I felt that I had been misled into making a transaction I wouldn’t otherwise have made if I had had all the information, i.e. that part of the service would be removed without refund. In addition it is against the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as an unfair contract, as they had changed the terms and conditions without my consent.

Therefore, I expected a partial refund for the last facial and partial refunds for the remaining sessions. However, my preference was to be given what I paid for, which was the head massage whilst the mask is applied for my remaining facials. As regards the last facial, which did not include the head massage for which I had paid, I expected a partial refund.

small Clarins tubes

I made the point that I had no issue with any of the therapists. It was quite clear it was a change in policy not in quality.

The complaint was passed to the Area Manager. She told me that they had not had any similar complaints. Hmmmm.

She could see from their records that I purchased My course in May 2015 and had a Tri- Active Facial on 14th December 2016 – whereby the therapists had assured her that she explained the new procedure to me. I then had another Tri-Active Facial on 11th December 2017. (As I said, I didn’t go to Lakeside very often). They fed my comments back to the Spa regarding my disappointment with the new treatment, and also to the London Training team who apparently welcome all customer feedback as they were apparently “disappointed” that I felt I had been misled.

So that was that. Of course it flipping wasn’t!

In fact, the Consumer Rights Act didn’t apply because I had actually bought and paid for the course of treatment before the act came into force on 1st October 2015. But other consumer laws including the CPUTRs did apply. So, off I went again.

It was also unfortunate that someone at Clarins appeared not to have read my email properly either.

I agreed that the therapist explained the new procedure after I asked why the head massage was not applied. I said so in my email. But as I had clearly stated, the head massage had been removed from the program AFTER I had paid for it. Therefore a breach of contract had taken place. Had I known that the massage was not going to be included (where it once was) I may have made a different decision. This was a breach of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. I pointed out that I provided this information, to which she had not referred in her reply.

I reiterated what I expected as redress. Then, of course, added my standard ending: “Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will not hesitate in taking the matter further. This will include, but not be limited to, informing my credit card company, Trading Standards and going through the Small Claims Court. I will also share my experience on social media and relevant review forums.”

The Area Manager for Lakeside confirmed that I had spent £268 on my course in 2015. Since then, I had had 2 x Tri-Active Facials which would equate to £140, leaving £128 on the course value – without the two free treatments as it was purchased on the 6 for 4 promotional offer.

She wanted me to note that the store policy on refunds is for customers to provide a proof of purchase and valid receipts. However, the Skin Spa Manager said that he/she would be happy to offer me the following:

  • 2 x Scalp and Foot Massages for the previous two treatments which you I had in 2017 and 2016.
  • 4 x Scalp and Foot Massages to be included in the remaining treatments that you I had booked.

Yay, so that was good, and that was the end of the matter… or so they thought…

Of course it wasn’t. Because, dear reader, as much as I like to spread the word about consumer rights to consumers I like to inform thVarious Clarins beauty products on black work yopose working in customer services too.

I informed her that one does NOT need a receipt. One only needs proof of purchase. They clearly had this from their treatment records.


So, in the end I got a little more than I was legally entitled to (2 scalp and foot massages!) but that is how it should be, particularly when it took a few emails to resolve.

So, in summary, never just accept changes in services! But it did all come out well in the wash as it were!

See Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively to be able to do the same.

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For lots of advice, tips, consumer rights, stories and template letters:

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!


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