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Should my garage pay if I've no warranty?

Q Imelda contacted Smart Consumer of foot of last week's column about warranties.

She writes: "I bought a car from a garage in Dublin in October 2008. There was a 12-month warranty, but the engine failed in March 2010, five months after the warranty expired. The car's mileage was low, we had it serviced by a main dealer, and were shocked when it became undrivable."

Imelda had paid €17,500 and says the garage "didn't want to know". She says "they quoted us about €4,000 to replace the engine, but we were not happy to pay such an amount of money. We tried to negotiate with the garage, to divide the costs between ourselves, the manufacturer and the garage, but to no avail."

Imelda has contacted her solicitor in an effort to get the case resolved.

She asks: "If there is such strong protection in place for small items, is the customer not entitled to the same protection when the value of the item is much higher?"

A The answer is yes. In fact, the legislation that protects you when you buy a jumper or a kettle also applies to buying cars. That also means that the remedies to be applied; repair, replacement or refund, are the same too.

As in the case of a TV or washing machine, if you never had a warranty or if it has expired, the seller is liable for the defective car.

When it comes to cars, things are often not that easy at all. If it is within six months of purchase the defect is assumed to have been there at the time of purchase, but after that it is up to the consumer to prove.

That is difficult when it comes to a second-hand car, as you have to take into account the condition of the car at the time of sale, the description given about the car, and any wear and tear that would occur over time.

You can make a claim for up to €2,000 through the small claims procedure, although that won't cover the cost of repair in Imelda's case.

Another avenue is the disputes procedure run by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (www.simi.ie), which you can use if the garage is a member.

Irish Independent