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Car dealership changed company name and are now saying not liable.

(88 Posts)
MrsKoala Sat 10-Jan-15 18:34:26

We bought a car for £2900 in June. On the way home from the dealership the cars break light was flashing and bleeping madly - it was evident there was a big problem. DH pulled over and called them from the side of the road and they were apologetic and said to take it into a local (the dealership was other side of London and we live in Kent) garage and then send them the invoice - they were sure it was just something small.

Anyway, the garage said it was a massive computer fault and would need a very expensive new part which cost about £2k and that the car wasn't worth repairing.

We contacted the dealership and they shouted abuse at me, then hung up and never answered any more of our calls.

We contacted trading standards/citizens advice and they advised us to send a series of letters giving 28 days notice that we would start legal proceedings. In all 4 letters were advised to be sent. None were acknowledged and were returned (recorded deliveries).

We proceeded with a court claim after advice from trading standards that we could show that we had done all in our power to resolve this.

We now have had a letter from the dealership acknowledging our claim but saying they have added LTD to their company name and became incorporated subsequent to our purchase (on the day after our first letter was received) and therefore 'have nothing whatsoever to do with the claim'.

Is this right? Can they do this? I am so cross that the advice we had has actually helped them. sad

Excitedforxmas Sat 10-Jan-15 18:37:49

We just had something similar with double glazing fault. 10 yr gaurentee totally invalid because they changed Their name from eg smith windows to smith windows and conservatories . Trading standards said its wrong but totally legal . Makes me angry

3littlefrogs Sat 10-Jan-15 18:39:19

Can you contact watchdog or rogue traders?

It does seem completely unfair that they can do this.

3littlefrogs Sat 10-Jan-15 18:41:49

Oh - and contact your MP.

MrsKoala Sat 10-Jan-15 18:45:56

I'm more furious with TS for the shit advice they have given us allowing them to do this. We wanted to just go straight for small claims. There just doesn't seem any point in the long drawn out process if this is entirely legal.

I just can't believe it. i feel like going onto their forecourt and smashing up one of their cars. See how the smug fucking bastards like that. It was all our money and happened just when i was rushed to hospital and MIL was diagnosed with terminal cancer - so it meant dh couldn't get to the hospital or to see his mum. It made a terrible situation much much worse and i bet they are patting themselves on the back for how clever they are. angry

Gobbolinothewitchscat Sat 10-Jan-15 18:54:35

What were they before? Presumably individuals trading as "company name"? If so, you could consider suing the individuals operating the business as was directly. They are likely to be the directors of the now limited company. You could amend your claim and use the directors' details (check who they are on companies house). Make it clear on the claim form that you are not suing them as directors if the new limited company (as you can't) but as individuals who were operating the old (non limited) defunct company.

Other thing to check (on companies house) is that the limited company is not just a change of name for the old company, rather than setting up a new company. If it's just s change of name, you can proceed

Do you have home insurance? Lots of policies have legal cover as part of the policy and they could take on the claim. Would be worth checking

MrsKoala Sat 10-Jan-15 18:58:14

They have put the company in a womans name now - so the directors are now different. so i don't think i could go after the individual.

Gobbolinothewitchscat Sat 10-Jan-15 19:09:19

Is there just one female director now of new company?

If you have the names of anyone else at ild company, amend the claim to whack their names down. They will have to defend the claim and, as part of the process, you can ask for disclosure of the names of the owners of old co (or whatever the structure of the old trading business was - coukd have just been individuals trading under the name).

The more you look as though you are going to continue, the more chance there is of you being offered a settlement if they are liable.

MrsKoala Sat 10-Jan-15 19:16:11

Is there anyway i could find the details of those who own the company now and before, and all directors names etc?

MrsKoala Sat 10-Jan-15 19:17:29

Also this claim has cost £105 already, will a new claim cost more because i think we are just throwing away more and more money and these slippery cunts will have all the angles covered sad

DarkBlueEyes Sat 10-Jan-15 19:20:05

Report them to the motor vehicle dealers association or whatever it is here. Then start a campaign to shame them. I'd stand outside their premises and tell people going in the facts.

MrsKoala Sat 10-Jan-15 19:43:21

I would DarkBlue but i live in kent and they are in Edgware Road. i don't think i could drag a baby and a toddler over there.

Also we have to get rid of the car. it's parked right up against our front window and taking up our parking space so we have to keep parking miles away and keep moving our actual working car - which embarrassingly pils had to buy us, because we lost all our money in this pile of stinking shit.

HedgehogsDontBite Sat 10-Jan-15 22:17:19

Have you checked out these changes with Companies House? Just in case you don't know Companies House is the government register of all company details. It'll help you work out if they're just trying it on or not.

HedgehogsDontBite Sat 10-Jan-15 22:19:21

Companies House will also give you the real date the company began, ie possibly not the ever so convenient date they tell you.

prh47bridge Sun 11-Jan-15 00:23:17

If this is still the same company they cannot avoid their debts by changing their name. However, it sounds as if they are claiming that they were not a limited company when you bought the car. If that is the case they must have been trading as a sole trader or a partnership. In either case you should be able to pursue the original trader personally. They remain liable regardless of any changes to the structure of the business. Similarly if it is still the same company and they have simply changed the company name the company is still liable.

If, however, it was previously a limited company or a limited liability partnership and that business has now been dissolved it is unlikely you will get your money back from them.

Did you pay by credit card? If so you can chase your credit card provider. They are jointly liable with the dealer. Getting a refund from them might be an easier route forward.

MrsKoala Sun 11-Jan-15 01:15:37

Thanks all for the advice.

Sadly we paid with cash. They charged 5% for CC so we didn't want to pay the extra £150. Which i now realise was a mistake.

If they were a sole trader/partnership would companies house have the name of the person i should pursue? and if so would i need to pay for a new claim and start all over again?

SoonToBeSix Sun 11-Jan-15 03:35:43

Op it won't help you in this case but for the future to get CC protection and to avoid a high charge just pay £1 on CC the rest cash.

prh47bridge Sun 11-Jan-15 18:23:06

If they were a sole trader/partnership would companies house have the name of the person i should pursue

No. Sole traders and partnerships are not registered at Companies House. Have you checked the paperwork you got when you bought the car?

MrsKoala Mon 12-Jan-15 10:56:09

I have just spoken to TS and they say we can't pursue the sole trader as they are now a different legal entity so it doesn't matter what they were when they sold us the car - which doesn't make any sense to me. They have said the only advice is to go to a solicitor or just accept it.

Fucking great. What the fuck is point of TS?

InfinitySeven Mon 12-Jan-15 11:06:43

Firstly, TS weren't necessarily wrong. The courts much prefer people to have tried solving the problem themselves first, and they advised you of the correct process. It is possible that your case can be thrown out, or your award reduced, if the judge doesn't think you gave the other party chance to solve things. So that is why they advised the process that they did.

Now, if the company was a sole trader when they sold you the car, you could now start a new action against the legal owner at the time. There are complications with this, though. Firstly, you would need legal advice on whether the person remains liable after a sale. It's possible that the sale negates the persons liability, but that the liability isn't passed over to the new company. Legal advice would be required there. Secondly, you'd need a new court case, and then you'd be claiming against the person individually, so payment can be difficult. Getting money from an individual can be very difficult - if they are in financial difficulty, they can offer £1 a month, or you may need to put a charge on a property that isn't released until they sell, etc. It can also be very expensive sending bailiffs, etc. It's certainly not guaranteed that you'll recover the money, even if you get a judgement against them.

If you look at Companie House, it should tell you the date that the new company was formed. I'd check that, just to be sure.

It's a really complex situation, so you need a solicitor, rather than a generic advice service like CAB or TS. They simply aren't trained enough to help with this type of thing - they have a brief guide and some factsheets but that's it.

MrsKoala Mon 12-Jan-15 11:13:01

Yes i understand. But i am so upset. It looks like we are just going to have to lose the money. We don't have enough to go to solicitors and then pay for more claims etc. Also we really need to get the car off our front (we live on a narrow, tiny street).

I have a 2yo and a 4mo and MIL who is dying of cancer. I just don't have the time, or emotional energy for more complicated dramas - which we will probably lose anyway.

The company was set up when they say. So it looks like scrapping the car is our only option and let them get away with £3k which we desperately need.

Thanks for your time everyone.

prh47bridge Mon 12-Jan-15 14:05:27

I have just spoken to TS and they say we can't pursue the sole trader as they are now a different legal entity

Rubbish advice and completely wrong. You would have got better advice from the CAB website.

Your contract was with the sole trader. They are therefore personally liable. They don't lose that liability just because they have converted the business to a limited company. Even if they go out of business altogether a sole trader remains personally liable for any money owed to you.

They may have transferred the liability to the limited company but it definitely hasn't disappeared. You do not have to lose your money.

If you are in doubt take action against both the company and the original sole trader. The courts will then sort out which of them is liable.

MrsKoala Mon 12-Jan-15 14:28:16

We have taken action against the company who say that as they weren't 'incorporated' till 22nd August (the day after they received our letter) that the have no connection with the sale 'whatsoever'. They became a LTD company on that date.

I have looked at the paperwork and the seller is a 'x name' not the company. So should i sue him personally? The problem is i only have his name, no address or contact details and the car dealers wont speak to me. Also wouls i need to start with all the letters again, giving notice that i intend to sue etc? If so it will take another 4 months and i just can't have this bus of a car parked outside for that long. Also could he then say i've left it too long to contact him now? and as above, what if he says he can't afford it?

i just don't know if i can do it all.

prh47bridge Mon 12-Jan-15 16:35:40

Yes, you sue him personally. You should sue the company as well in case he has transferred his personal liability to the company despite their denials.

I'm surprised TS advised you to send 4 letters each giving 28 days notice. You only need to send a single "letter before action" setting out your claim, giving a deadline for the trader to respond and statin that you will start court proceedings if you haven't heard from them by the deadline. Most people give a 14 day deadline, not 28 days. CAB have a sample letter here that you can adapt.

You have not left it too long to contact him. If he genuinely cannot afford it you will need to decide whether or not it is worth pursuing him. However, he cannot avoid liability by simply saying he can't afford it.

MrsKoala Mon 12-Jan-15 16:46:10

Sorry if i wasn't clear - we can't contact him tho. We have no contact details other than the company name who say he isn't there and they have a new director in place from 22 August.

TS kept banging on about having to demonstrate that we had been more than fair. When i spoke to them i said 14 days then start proceedings and they said no. 28 would be reasonable. Also to send recorded (which were returned unopened) and non recorded with just proof of postage letters. They said to send the 1st one stating the issue and asking them to get back to us to resolve it in 28 days. Then a letter saying we would be going to CC if not heard from them in 28 days. Then another letter saying this really was the last chance. Then the letter of intent to proceed with no further warning if not heard in 28 more days.

I queried this amount of time and they said a judge would look way more favourably on our case if we did this.

The TS number i called said it was affiliated with CAB so i assumed the advice would be the same.

Even if they say the company is not liable can we proceed with the case? or do we need to re-file? it has cost us over £100 to file this and we just can't afford to keep throwing money away.

How can we sue him if we don't have contact details?

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