We bought a new caravan from them at the Tyneside branch, and the handover was simply dreadful. It was a cold December afternoon. The caravan had arrived two months earlier than promised, and rather than leave it sat outside in the open for the winter, we decided to take it then and keep it snug under a good quality cover for the winter.
The sales assistant who did the handover clearly knew nothing about caravans, claiming that the Alde header tank in the wardrobe was the water heater. I pointed out that the alarm cover was open. She promised to get it sorted before we took the caravan. She also pointed to the optional shelf pack which had been left in a cupboard. Paying by card took over 2 hours because nobody at the dealership knew how to use the card machine, and suggested it was my bank's fault. After a long phone call to the bank the dealer rang elsewhere to find the procedure and the payment was finally sorted. By now it was dark and cold and we were just glad to hitch up and leave.
The next day I discover the dealer-fit shelves that had been left in the cupboard didn't fit and there were no wall brackets. I also discovered the alarm cover had not been fixed, and even the alarm battery wasn't connected. I contacted the sales person who informed me I had to cut and fit the shelves myself. I pointed out that the advertising says they were a dealer fit, and anyway, how was I supposed to cut them longer? Later when using the van we found further problems with the PDI such as the Alde heating pump left on the wrong setting, and the water pump not initialised. It took several months and 3 shelf packs to sort that issue out.
We did not use the caravan over the winter, and in spring we took it out for our first holiday. A week later on our return, the cover went on again. A few weeks later we had planned a short break before a 3 week holiday in France. On taking the cover off I found the 1.5 metre long wooden skylight surround had fallen off, and lay on the floor. I still shudder to think what would have happened if my young grandchild had been playing on the floor underneath. I rang the main dealership, Catterick Caravans as there was no way I was going anywhere near Tyneside Leisure World again. After getting no response, I contacted Elddis who arranged for another dealer to repair it. This dealer refixed the surround, and the squeaking brakes but spotted that the wall mounted microwave cupboard was falling off the wall. They said they could not repair it. I wanted to reject the caravan there and then, but Catterick Caravans said they could and would repair it. It was booked in the last working day before we left for France.
Within days whilst we were in France, other things started to go wrong. Doors started coming loose, due to the fact that all the screws in the hinges had been overtightened at the factory. The seat frame hinges also came loose due to the wrong screws being fitted. We found nails sticking out of the woodwork handily placed to cut fingers.The brakes were still squealing, and already the seat cushions had started to noticeably compress. The last straw was seeing the microwave cupboard starting to fall off the wall again. That wasn't all, however, as the most serious problem was just emerging. The roof at the front was starting to collapse inwards, and had dropped by 2cm in the middle.
Whilst on holiday I emailed all the problems to the dealer and said I would be rejecting the caravan under the Consumer Rights Act. On my return I exercised the final right to reject under the Consumer Rights Act in writing, and handed the letter to them at the dealership as nobody would speak to me directly. After a week I got the only contact made by them, a phone call asking if an Elddis engineer could look at the caravan, to which I agreed to. After this I heard nothing. A couple of phone calls to the dealer got no result either, so I wrote again to the MD. Still no response at all, not even an acknowledgement.
At this point I took lots of legal advice. In the end I used the legal aid which came with my house insurance. Their excellent advice suggested I write once again and give a clear deadline otherwise they would be held in breach of contract. I did this and copied it to both directors.
At the end of the deadline, and now 3 months after rejecting the caravan, I had still heard nothing, not so much as an acknowledgement in any form. I happened to be going past Catterick Caravans the next day, and arranged to see somebody about the rejection. The only person who would speak to me turned out to be some junior person, who after hearing the issues, went off to discuss this with someone senior. They came back and told me they were not prepared to do anything, and if I was going to a solicitor they would give me the name of theirs. Up to this point, at no time had Catterick Caravans ever contested the fact that the caravan was unfit for use.
I them had to get a solicitor involved, who suggested a settlement figure to prevent it going to court. The first response of Catterick Caravans was a very childish and badly written response claiming that the caravan had never been repaired. It had actually had two repairs by this time at different dealers. Their letter claimed that according to Elddis, the majority of the faults were minor. What did that make the rest of the faults one wonders? Then they stated this case did not fall under the Consumer Rights Act, which clearly it did. However, minor faults count just as much as major faults after one repair, and eventually after their solicitor became involved an agreement was reached and the caravan was rejected under the Consumer Rights Act. The whole process took 5 months.
Catterick Caravans behaved deplorably over this affair. There was no real dispute that the caravan was anything other than unfit for use. A reputable dealer would have invited us in at the earliest opportunity to discuss the matter and offer options. Had they been a reputable dealer we would have probably exchanged the caravan for a different make and could have enjoyed the rest of the season.
I believe their tactic was that often used by less reputable traders. Firstly ignore everything and hope the customer goes away. Clearly this must work with many, if it doesn't then deny everything and claim the CRA doesn't apply. Again this must put more off. However, it didn't work in my case, and sadly we had to go all the way and use a solicitor to get our rights under the Consumer Rights Act enforced.
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