Customers hit out at second-hand car dealer over faulty vehicles and delayed repairs
PUBLISHED: 11:31 16 September 2019 | UPDATED: 18:10 16 September 2019
A second-hand car dealer has been hit with a string of complaints over faulty cars, with two people describing how their vehicles burst into flames.
Seven other drivers also claimed their cars from Bonds Car Sales and Bonds Used Cars, in Ber Street, Norwich, had a litany of faults which were never fixed or took months of frustration to resolve.
One consumer group described the cases as "shocking", but James Snelling, from Bonds, said the garage sold hundreds of vehicles a year without any issues.
Mr Snelling said: "There are potential problems with every car even if you drive it away from a dealership brand new."
He added: "Although we strive to have no unhappy customers it is expected that there will be a few."
Five customers said they had reported Bonds to Norfolk Trading Standards in the last three years and were advised to write a letter to James Snelling.
But all five claimed they received no response to their letters.
A spokesman from Norfolk Trading Standards would not comment on individual cases but said: "Used cars are the most complained about business sector both nationally and in Norfolk."
Paul Simmonds' Audi A3, which cost £2,000, burst into flames on Grapes Hill, Norwich, in April. Mr Simmonds, 34, from Plumstead, said he had a number of problems with the car, bought seven weeks earlier.
A Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said the fire was caused by an electrical fault.
Mr Snelling denied any fault at the time.
Since then, Mr Simmonds said he had not been able to recover the money, while the advice from trading standards led to nothing.
"They told me to send a letter by recorded delivery," he said. "But he [James Snelling] didn't sign for it," Mr Simmonds claimed. "It's been months. What can you do?"
Lisa Postle, meanwhile, watched helplessly as her £900 Ford Fiesta caught fire on the M25 in 2016. Miss Postle, 40, from Hellesdon, was travelling on the way to Surrey on December 10.
"The car started making a horrible tapping noise and then about five seconds later all the power went from under the accelerator," she said.
"By the time I'd stopped there was black smoke coming from the engine. I popped the bonnet open and there were flames."
Miss Postle said she bought the Ford Fiesta in July that year and had to take it back on multiple occasions due to faults.
Mr Snelling said: "We would never knowingly sell an unfit car as we know it could come back and result in inconvenience to the customer and ourselves."
One customer's complaint extended beyond a faulty car - Jenny Davey claimed her car was being driven around Norwich without her knowledge after being sent three separate parking fines.
Miss Davey, 28, from East Harling, and her friend Denise Savidge, 53, from Attleborough, part-exchanged a Citroen DS3 for two Smart cars in November 2018.
Both were driving from the garage when the ABS light flashed on, and so they returned them for repairs.
Miss Davey said her car remained with Bonds in December, but while she thought it was at the garage she found it had been illegally parked three times.
She received a fine from Norwich Traffic Control (NTR) after it was parked without a permit in Lakenham, and another two fines from Norwich City Council when it was parked near the Belgian Monk pub in Pottergate.
She said Bonds paid for the fines after the charges were escalated to debt collectors.
Another customer got a full refund after several weeks.
Mother-of-five Shelly Welton, 36, from Sprowston, bought a Ford Galaxy for £1,000 in November 2018, which she claimed she had to take back to Bonds for repairs more than 10 times.
"The car wasn't starting, it kept losing power," she said. "I told them I want my money back."
Mr Snelling said every car sold had a full MOT but he accepted problems occurred. "More often than not, it is a simple fix and the customer can be on their way the same day," he said.
"However, every now and then we come across a 'problem car' where no matter what you do you cannot get to the bottom of why it is malfunctioning.
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"In which case, we then do our best to rectify the problem and offer the customer another car or refund depending on the situation."
Consumer expert Martyn James, from complaints and mediation service Resolver, said: "These examples are frankly shocking.
"There is never an excuse for selling goods with potentially life-threatening faults - and even if this is a run of bad luck on the dealer's part, I'd expect them to go out of their way to reassure their customers that there isn't a deeper problem."
Money back in 'dribs and drabs'
Several drivers claimed they had long waits for their cars to be repaired after buying faulty vehicles from Bonds.
Amy Hindle, 36, said her partner Chris Stammer, 44, was on his way home to Ipswich on the day he picked up the Peugeot 308 when the engine management light came on in March 2018.
The car, which cost £4,350, remained at Bonds for seven months, but then the engine stopped working altogether, Miss Hindle claimed.
She said an agreement was made for the cost of a new engine to be split between her and Bonds Car Sales, which came to £1,100 each.
In October 2018, the couple towed the car to a mechanic in Essex to fit the new engine, but more problems were uncovered.
"The water pipe was broken and the various different pipes were held with jubilee clips and cable ties," Miss Hindle said. "Trading Standards said to send a letter to them before taking legal action but nothing came of that."
Adam Johnson, 28, of Rosewood, North Walsham, decided to fix his Volvo C30 elsewhere after numerous trips to Bonds did not resolve the engine problems.
Mr Johnson, who bought it in December 2017, said: "After a few weeks I discovered that after I brake hard the whole car would shake."
John Whittaker, 35, of Rozlyne Close, Lowestoft, found water leaking into the boot of his Ford Focus the day after he bought it in October 2016.
He said he raised it with Bonds before he bought the car but was assured it would be rectified. He said he sent the car back for repairs on a number of occasions.
In an email to Trading Standards, dated April 2017, Mr Whittaker claimed: "I did request a full £3,100 refund from Bonds which was refused."
Catherine Walton, 34, of Bloomfield Road, Norwich, said she managed to get a full refund of £1,400 after her Ford Fusion suffered a number of problems even after a new engine was fitted.
Miss Walton said the problems began on the day she picked up the car in July 2018. "Six weeks later they still didn't know what was wrong with it," she claimed. "We ended up getting the money back in dribs and drabs."
Mr Snelling said: "Small local businesses are struggling in today's climate and any negative feedback reflects on our sales, so we obviously want our customers to be happy."
People who experience problems with their second-hand cars may have a legal right to a repair, replacement or refund.
But this is not the case for consumers who are told about the fault before purchasing the car or if it is 'deemed fair wear and tear'.
You may have a legal right to a refund if the car develops a problem you would not expect for its age and mileage.
Since October 2015, under the Consumer Rights Act you are entitled to a full refund after rejecting the car within 30 days of purchase.
If a problem occurs after this period which you think may have existed at the time of buying the car, you are entitled to ask for a repair or replacement free of charge.
During the first six months, it is for the seller to prove the fault was not there.
If attempts for repair or replacement are unsuccessful consumers are entitled to a refund, but the car dealer may make a deduction from the refund for fair use after the initial 30 days.
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