A recent decision of the Court of Session has clarified the position on a Scottish hirer's post-rejection use of a vehicle and goods in general. The case is Alan King v Blackhorse Limited and Park's (Ayr) Limited  CSIH 3.
No blanket prohibition on post-rejection use
The Court found, on appeal, that there is no blanket prohibition on post-rejection use of a vehicle by a customer. The Court explained there are circumstances where post-rejection use of the vehicle would be anticipated. Examples of this would be where the customer has rejected the vehicle and the supplier has delayed providing the refund or making arrangements to collect the vehicle. The Court has confirmed that use of the vehicle by the hirer post-rejection would significantly weaken the customer's position in terms of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The decision of the court overturned the conclusion of the more junior Sheriff Court and Sheriff Appeal Court in the case.
Each case will be fact specific
This decision does not remove the possibility of a "personal bar" argument being advanced by the supplier. This would mean that by acting in a certain way, the customer has lost their ability to rely on rejection. An example would be where the customer has rejected the vehicle on the basis that there is a significant fault with it rendering it non-driveable, yet the customer continues to successfully use the vehicle post-rejection. The Court acknowledges that in certain fact-specific circumstances, rejection of the vehicle would be inconsistent with the actions of the customer.
All this means that there is no particular hard and fast rule on when post-rejection use of a vehicle is allowable, but there is now clarity, at least, that post-rejection use of the vehicle isn't completely prohibited. Although this decision was made in the context of vehicles, the ruling will apply to post-rejection use of goods in general and so is relevant for all consumers. Given the change in focus brought about by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the general direction of travel in terms of things being more consumer-centric, the decision isn't particularly surprising.
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