Tribunal orders $58,500 refund for faulty Holden.

An Otaki couple have got a full refund for their faulty $58,500 car after taking their case to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal.

The couple bought a new Holden Captiva diesel in June 2011. Nine months later the car broke down and had to be towed back to the dealer, HMC Kapiti. They expected the problem to be found and fixed quickly. But three weeks later, the Holden was still off the road and the couple were relying on a courtesy car.

Unhappy with the delay, they called our consumer advice line to find out what their options were. Our adviser Maggie Edwards explained the couple's rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act. "If a vehicle has a major fault, you have the right to choose between repair, replacement or a refund. All the evidence in this case pointed to a major failure," she says.

The couple wrote to HMC Kapiti rejecting the vehicle and requesting a refund. But the company felt this was unreasonable. Unable to resolve matters, the next stop was the tribunal.

HMC Kapiti's written evidence argued the problem had been caused by contaminated fuel, something not covered by Holden's warranty. But this argument was dropped at the hearing after test results gave the fuel the “all clear”.

The tribunal, assisted by an expert assessor, identified the cause of the failure as a faulty fuel injector and vacuum actuator, concluding the parts were insufficiently durable. The referee* considered the failure was substantial and said that a reasonable consumer wouldn’t have purchased the $58,500 car knowing the parts would fail in such a short time. She found the couple was entitled to a refund.

A persuasive factor in the case was the dealer's failure to communicate with the couple about what it was doing to repair the vehicle. The referee accepted the couple's evidence that they weren't informed about what was happening while the dealer had been attempting to diagnose the problem. From their perspective, the dealer had the vehicle for three weeks and hadn't been able to determine what was wrong.

The couple got a refund last month. They are now happy to be ex-owners of this particular Holden.

*The referee was Nicola Wills who is also Chairman of the Consumer NZ Board. Her position as an adjudicator for the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal is independent from that role. Both parties were made aware of her position with Consumer NZ before the case was heard and agreed for the case to proceed.