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New appeal decision on Consumer Rights Act 2015 – David Lascelles


In Black Horse Limited v Andrew Curtis (Bristol CC, 21 February 2024),  HHJ Railton heard an appeal in relation to a novel point under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the Act).

The case arose from a consumer’s hire-purchase of a defective Range Rover from a finance company within the Lloyds Bank Group.

The finance company admitted that the vehicle was defective.  It accepted that it knew the consumer had validly rejected the same.  In line with its usual process, the finance company declined, however, to collect the vehicle unless and until the consumer accepted to settle his claims on financial terms proposed by the finance company.

The consumer, a practising solicitor, informed the finance company that the goods were available for collection but that he was not prepared to accept the low level of compensation offered.   In the face of the continued refusal by the finance company to collect the vehicle, the consumer made clear he would continue driving it.  In the time it took the finance company to issue proceedings for recovery, by then denying that the vehicle was defective, 40,000 more miles had been put on the clock.

Under section 20 of the Act, and subject to section 24 thereof, a consumer is entitled to a refund upon exercising the final right to reject.

Section 24(8) of the Act provides that:

 “If the consumer exercises the final right to reject, any refund to the consumer may be reduced by a deduction for use, to take account of the use the consumer has had of the goods in the period since they were delivered, but this is subject to subsections (9) and (10).

Section 24(9) reads:

“No deduction may be made to take account of use in any period when the consumer has the goods only because the trader failed to collect them at an agreed time”.

The key question as regards this section at trial and on appeal was whether, for section 24(9) to be engaged, the parties actually had to agree a time for collection.

This question of construction had not previously been answered by the courts.

At trial, the judge held that the consumer was entitled to significantly more compensation for the defects than the finance company had offered.   She entered judgment for the consumer accordingly.

The trial judge rejected, however, the consumer’s argument that no deduction should be made for the period after the trader had failed to collect the car.  Rather she accepted the finance company’s argument that – because (as was common ground) no time to collect had ever been agreed – there was no failure to “collect [the goods] at an agreed time”.  Hence, she held, section 24(9) was not engaged.  The trial judge therefore deducted from the sums due to the consumer an amount for all use of the vehicle including that post-rejection.

The consumer appealed.  He contended that there had indeed been a failure to collect at an agreed time: – there had been a failure to collect at any time whatsoever.  He relied upon the purpose of the Act being consumer protection.   He denied the need for an agreed time for collection before section 24(9) was engaged: – otherwise a finance company, as here, could ensure section 24(9) never applied simply by refusing to agree a time for collection.  He contended that this would allow a finance company to place undue pressure on a consumer by making a low-ball offer and declining to collect the vehicle unless and until it was accepted.

The finance company resisted the appeal.  It sought to uphold the trial judge’s reasoning.  It contended that there could not be a failure to collect at an agreed time unless there was first an agreement as to a time for collection.  As no agreement had been reached, section 24(9) did not apply.  It mattered not, so it was said, that the finance company itself had declined to engage with the consumer’s attempt to have the car collected.

After a detailed review of the key applicable principles of legislative interpretation, HHJ Railton found in the consumer’s favour and granted the appeal:

In my judgment [the finance company’s] interpretation would make a nonsense of the consumer rights Parliament intended to give consumers. It would leave a consumer who has lawfully rejected a car but who has not been given the refund to which he is entitled (potentially rendering him unable to buy a different car) and from whom the car has not been collected deliberately by the trader open to paying for his ongoing use of the car.

The result is a resounding success for consumers.   A trader may no longer re-charge a consumer for use post-rejection where the trader has refused to collect the goods (including, as here, refusing to do so unless the consumer accepts an inadequate offer of compensation).  It is hoped that Black Horse will now change its processes in this respect.

A copy of the judgment is available here.

David Lascelles acted for the successful consumer, Mr Curtis, on appeal.  He was instructed by Mr Curtis’ solicitors’ firm, Drew & Co.  Adam Solomon K.C. and Blathnaid Breslin acted for Mr Curtis at trial.

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