What claims you can make

The Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal is for people who have bought a vehicle from a registered trader or from a trader that meets the criteria for registration but isn’t.

A trader is someone who sells a motor vehicle. The exact definition is in the Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003.

If you bought a vehicle from a private seller and want to dispute the sale – you’ll need to go through the Disputes Tribunal.

Disputes Tribunal (external link)

You can make a claim with the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal if you think a motor vehicle dealer has breached 1 of these Acts:

The tribunal can deal with disputes of amounts up to $100,000. It can be more if both parties agree in writing. You can also claim for the remedies (such as repairs) available under the Act that relate to your claim.

Claims under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993

You can make a claim if you think a trader has broken 1 of the guarantees under the Act. This could be if the vehicle:

  • isn’t legally the trader’s to sell (they don’t have title to it)
  • isn’t of acceptable quality when it’s sold
  • isn’t fit for purpose (the vehicle isn’t reasonably suitable for the purpose that the buyer told the dealer they planned to use it for)
  • doesn’t match the description
  • doesn’t match the demonstration model
  • wasn’t a reasonable price (when the price is not set)
  • didn’t arrive on time and in acceptable condition
  • doesn’t have spare parts or repair facilities available.

What the tribunal can do if you make a claim under the Consumer Guarantees Act

Rejection & refund

If the vehicle fails to comply with the guarantees in Part 1 of the Consumer Guarantees Act you can get an order upholding your rejection of the vehicle. This applies if:

If this happens the trader is ordered by the tribunal to give you a full refund.

If you want to reject the vehicle you must first tell the trader in writing of your decision and reasons for rejecting the vehicle.

You can’t reject the vehicle if:

  • you didn’t reject the vehicle within a reasonable time of the fault becoming apparent
  • the vehicle is disposed of, or has been damaged, after it was delivered to you – for reasons unrelated to its condition when you bought it.

Repair costs

Instead of rejecting the vehicle and asking for a refund, you can get damages (money) equal to the amount the vehicle has been devalued by the failures. The tribunal can award reasonable repair costs to you. Under this remedy, you must ask the trader to repair the vehicle and give them a reasonable time to do the repairs before having the failure repaired elsewhere.

Consequential damages

The tribunal can also order the trader to pay damages (money) for any loss or damage to you resulting because the vehicle didn’t comply with a guarantee in the Consumer Guarantees Act.

The loss has to result from the failure. Examples of this are towing costs, car rental costs, or the costs of getting an expert to report on the cause of the vehicle failure.

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Claims under the Sale of Goods Act 1908

The tribunal can award damages under the Sale of Goods Act when it finds that a trader sold a vehicle that was not of saleable (fit to be sold) quality or reasonably fit for purpose.

You can make a claim when you think the vehicle was not in a fit state to be sold, or that the sale otherwise breached the Sale of Goods Act.

You can’t claim under this Act if:

  • you and the trader agreed that the Sale of Goods Act didn’t apply to the sale
  • the sale was covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act (see the types of claims you can make under the Act above).

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Claims under the Fair Trading Act 1986

You can also make a claim when you think a trader has broken the Fair Trading Act.

The most common case is when the trader misled you about:

  • the vehicle
  • a warranty or guarantee on the vehicle (this includes telling you that no warranty or guarantee applies to a sale when in fact the Consumer Guarantees Act applies).

What the tribunal can do if you make a claim under the Fair Trading Act

If the tribunal finds you have suffered loss or damage under the Act it could:

  • declare that the contract and any collateral contract is void (see collateral credit agreements below)
  • vary the contract
  • order the trader to refund money
  • order the trader to pay damages
  • order the trader to repair or provide parts for the vehicle
  • order the trader to provide specified services.

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If you borrowed money to buy the vehicle

If you owe money on the vehicle we call this a collateral credit agreement.

When the tribunal orders that a purchaser has a right to reject the vehicle under the Consumer Guarantees Act or declares the contract for the sale of the vehicle void under the Fair Trading Act, it could order that your rights and obligations under a collateral credit agreement be transferred to the trader.

It can do this if you bought the vehicle with finance and the finance company paid the money to the trader. This means the trader could have to take over your obligations under the finance agreement and you could also get a refund for any payments you've made.

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