Saturday 1 October 2016

Your questions: Do I have any comeback after clutch went on my car within two weeks of buying it?

Fergal O'Leary

Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30

'Within two weeks of driving the car, the clutch went and it is going to cost me dearly to get it fixed' Stock photo: Depositphotos
'Within two weeks of driving the car, the clutch went and it is going to cost me dearly to get it fixed' Stock photo: Depositphotos

I bought my car after seeing it advertised on a popular site for selling cars. The guy I bought it from seemed genuine and provided me with all of the necessary paperwork, so I was happy that I had done all the relevant checks. However, within two weeks of driving the car, the clutch went and it is going to cost me dearly to get it fixed. The mechanic who is repairing the clutch said that the seller would have been aware that there was an issue before he sold me the car. The seller is saying it is a case of buyer beware and it is not his problem. Is he right?

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Declan, Tullamore, Co Offaly

It is unclear from your query if you bought the car from a dealer or a private seller. If you buy a second-hand car from a dealer, you have protections under consumer law.

The car should be of merchantable quality - meaning in this case that it should be of reasonable, acceptable quality, given the age and history of the car, fit for the purpose intended and roadworthy. It should also match the description given verbally or in an advertisement.

It is an offence for a dealer to provide misleading information about the car - including its history, specification and any repair work needed. It is also an offence under consumer law for a dealer to withhold information when selling a car. If you believe that you were misled, you should contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission through its consumer helpline (1890 432432).

If the seller is a member of the Society of Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), you may be able to avail of the SIMI complaints process. If your claim does not exceed €2,000, you also have the option of making a claim against the seller through the Small Claims Court. You may want to get your mechanic to write a report on the fault that has occurred. If the report states that the fault should not be occurring in a car of its age and condition, then you may be able to use this report to make a claim against the garage.

However, if you bought the car from a private seller, you do not have the same consumer rights because the person selling the car is not selling it as a business. There is little you can do beyond taking a civil case through the courts.

Because of this, be extra careful when buying from a private seller. There are a range of tips and checklists on www.consumerhelp.ie to help you. Remember, a private seller may not have all the information or the answers, so it is important to have the car checked by a mechanic.

I have been considering a change in career for some time and had decided to do an evening diploma course in marketing. I paid a deposit of €1,000 by cheque to secure my place but then unexpectedly lost my job. I can no longer afford to do the course but when I called into the college to find out about getting my deposit back, it said it does not have to return it. What are my options?

Jessica, Santry, Dublin 9

When you pay a deposit, this is an indication to the supplier that you intend to buy a product or service. You enter into a contract with the supplier at that stage - and you are bound by the terms of that contract.

When you pay a deposit, you and the supplier agree the exact product or service that you are buying, the amount of deposit you pay, when the balance has to be paid and when the product or service will be provided. It is important to make sure that you, and the supplier, are clear about all the details.

If you received a written contract from the college, this should outline both your and the college's rights and responsibilities, including what would happen if you were to cancel. If it turns out that you are not entitled to get a refund of your deposit, you should explain your current situation to the college. As a gesture of goodwill, it might agree to defer your place until you have found a job and are in a position to afford the rest of the fees.

But it is important to know that the college doesn't have to offer you anything - unless it was specified in the contract. That is why it is very important to know that you enter into a contract when you put a deposit down.

My girlfriend and I are moving in together. We have very different attitudes to money, so I am a bit concerned about how we will get on financially. She is a 'spender' and I am a 'saver'. She earns more than me but has now suggested we get a joint bank account and 'pool our money'. Have you any suggestions on how we can live in harmony without letting our attitudes to money drive a wedge between us?

Tom, Blackrock, Co Dublin

Money can be a source of conflict for many relationships, so it's good that you are recognising your differences and figuring out how to manage your money.

You should discuss each other's financial habits and decide how to pay for your shared expenses, such as your rent and bills. Take into account each other's incomes. The key is to come up with an arrangement that suits and seems fair to both of you. Also, discuss how you will keep track of your joint finances - and who has responsibility for what. Maybe in your situation, a joint account might work best for your shared expenses - and then you can have separate accounts for whatever is left over.

Other things worth talking about are any savings goals you may both have. For example, you may want to save together for a deposit for a house. So you may therefore want to consider setting up a joint savings account and pooling your savings - as this may give you a better return on your savings. Finally, think about how you would cope if one of you were unable to work or if you needed money for some other unforeseen event. One option is to set up an 'emergency fund.' Aim to build up at least three months' salary with such a fund.

My health insurance renewal has arrived and my premium has increased a lot, even though I have not made any claims. I find it difficult to compare options as there seems to be hundreds of different plans available. How can I get to keep the same level of benefits without having to pay more?

Mary, Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny

There are hundreds of different health insurance plans available, so it can be challenging to know where to start if you are considering switching. However, it is worth contacting your current provider and asking it what plans it has that might be suitable before you switch. Any savings will depend on your new level of cover.

There is a very useful comparison tool on the Health Insurance Authority's website, www.hia.ie, where you can compare the costs and benefits of all private health insurance plans.

In terms of choosing a policy, ask yourself what type of cover you are looking for. Are you looking for basic cover or are you prepared to pay more for treatment in a private hospital?

What excess (the first part of a claim you must pay yourself) applies if you have to make a claim? Check the conditions of your cover and any restrictions, including any waiting periods that apply before you sign up. If you have any questions on your cover, contact your provider.

If you are switching to a different insurance provider and have an existing direct debit arrangement with your current provider, you will need to cancel the direct debit to your old insurer.

To stop a direct debit, you must cancel it by writing to your bank. You should also contact your old insurance provider to make sure that the direct debit has been cancelled.

If you change your mind after switching, all insurers must provide a 14-day 'cooling-off period' from the start of the contract, during which time you may cancel and get a full refund.

Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.
While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.
Director of Communications and Market Insight at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

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