Material defects in motorhomes When do warranty and liability apply in the event of damage??
What to do when material defects occur on the motor home? promobil explains what you need to keep in mind regarding warranty, liability for material defects and deadlines so that everything runs smoothly during processing.
More exemplary cases and court rulings in case of material defects on the motorhome can be found in the PDF version of the article from issue 03/2016, which is subject to a charge.
Base vehicle, refrigerator or water system: a good half of the participants in the promobil-Readers’ choice complain about the fact that it had to fight at its travel mobile in the past twelve months with defects. Particularly affected were integrated and alcove, the best scored were the camping buses. But not all defects are real material defects. The expert Gerolf Happel has been working in the recreational vehicle industry for 25 years and has already handled many "problem cases". He points out a small but subtle difference: that between normal wear and tear and actual technical defects. Worn tires and worn brake pads do not fall under the liability for material defects and must be paid by the owner alone.
In view of the figures from the readers’ choice survey, the following assessment by the expert is surprising: Happel is certain that the number of cases of genuine material defects has fallen significantly in recent years. In it also the Nuremberg expert Thomas Kramm agrees with him, who emphasizes still another point: the quality controls with the manufacturers. These have become stricter in recent years, which in his opinion reduces the defect rate. What has increased significantly, however, according to both appraisers, are customers who feel a certain "buyer’s remorse" and therefore want to claim material defects in order to be able to withdraw from the purchase. The capacities that the processing of such cases ties up in the service departments of dealers and manufacturers could be put to good use by customers with genuine technical problems.
When can one speak of a defect at all??
Lawyer Rudiger Zipper: "An object of purchase is defective if it is not suitable for the use stipulated in the contract. An example: A dealer sells a motorhome ‘with five beds’, the buyer wants to use the motorhome with his family of five, but the vehicle has only three beds."A defect also exists if the motorhome is not suitable for the intended use or if it does not have the usual condition, for example if the paint immediately fades or even peels off.
Who pays for the repair costs in the event of a genuine defect??
This depends crucially on how old the motorhome is or how long ago the purchase was made. A precise distinction must be made between the terms warranty and liability for material defects (formerly often called guarantee), which are often mistakenly lumped together, even though there is a major legal difference between them.
Liability for material defects means that the seller is responsible for ensuring that the item sold is free of defects. It is essential whether these defects already existed at the time of purchase when the motorhome was handed over, regardless of whether they are discovered immediately or only later. The legally regulated warranty period is 24 months. In the case of used items, this period can be shortened to twelve months either by the general terms and conditions or on the basis of separate agreements between the buyer and seller. However, a complete exclusion is inadmissible in business transactions.
If a defect occurs, the legal presumption applies in the first six months after handover of the purchased item to the buyer that this was already present when the item was handed over to the buyer. In this respect, the buyer does not have to provide any proof: The burden of proof lies with the seller for the first six months. If the buyer discovers the defect after the six months, the burden of proof turns again, and now the buyer must prove that the thing was already defective at the time of delivery to him.
When do the warranty services of the manufacturer take effect?
In contrast to the liability for material defects, the warranty is voluntary and its content can be freely defined. In the first place, the manufacturer, sometimes the retailer, gives them to the customer. With the warranty, the manufacturer usually wants to promise the end consumer the functionality of the sold item for a certain period of time. It is interesting to note that the condition of the goods at the time of handover to the consumer is irrelevant for this commitment. Within the framework of the warranty promise, the buyer should only be assured of the functionality for the period of the granted warranty.
Warranty and statutory liability for material defects are independent of each other, which means that one claim has no effect on the other. For the buyer, the contact person for warranty claims is always the seller, i.e. the dealer; the contact person for warranty claims is the party who granted the warranty, i.e. usually the manufacturer of the product. It is common practice that the manufacturer attaches to the guarantee the observance of certain care measures on the part of the consumer. This is the case, for example, with leakage guarantees, which only apply if the leakage test is and was regularly carried out at the customer’s expense.
Both the claims of the buyer from the statutory warranty and from the warranty promise by the manufacturer or dealer are bound to deadlines. These periods begin with the handing over of the object of purchase to the buyer. If a defect occurs shortly before the end of the warranty period, it is of course imperative to act quickly. The expiration of the warranty period can be delayed by negotiations, in this respect the legislator says in paragraph 203 sentence one BGB: "If negotiations between the debtor and the creditor about the claim or the circumstances giving rise to the claim are pending, the limitation period is suspended until one or the other party refuses to continue the negotiations." The time during which the limitation period is suspended is not included in the limitation period. Important: The mere complaint of a defect to the dealer, whether in writing or verbally, does not suspend the warranty period. The seller must also deal with the inspection of the defect.
What to do if there is a suspected material defect in the motorhome?
Customers should therefore be sure to enter into active negotiations with the dealer. If all else fails, there is another option for delaying the statute of limitations: filing a lawsuit. If the dealer has carried out work to rectify the defect, for example replacing a window or repairing the refrigerator, the warranty period for this work or repaired parts starts anew. This does not apply if the work was done only to settle a dispute amicably or as a gesture of goodwill. Nothing comparable applies to warranty work. There is no inhibition or extension here.
For new vehicles up to four years old, some manufacturers offer partial coverage of repair costs. This goodwill is a voluntary concession and cannot be demanded.
One thing should be clear: If you apply the same standards to motorhomes as you do to a car or a house, you may be disappointed. On the other hand, every buyer has a right to use his mobile for its intended purpose. Dealers and manufacturers must do everything possible to ensure that the customer is still well looked after after purchase. And industry players from all sectors agree that there is still room for improvement here.
promobil tip: 3 steps to proceed in case of material defects
- The first step after finding a material defect on your own motorhome should be to describe the defect precisely in writing and report it to the contracting party, which in most cases is the dealer.
- Set the contractual partner a reasonable deadline in writing within which he is to rectify the defect. Depending on the type of repair, this can take shorter or longer, but two weeks is reasonable in most cases.
- If the contractual partner does not cooperate, you can have the repair carried out by another workshop at your own expense and then pass the costs incurred on to the seller. You should also announce this step in writing and set a deadline. In any case, it is better to reach an amicable agreement with the seller than to go to court, which all too often takes up time, money and nerves.
Interview on the subject of material defects
Asked by Kai Dhonau, President of the DCHV (Deutscher Caravaning Handels-Verband).
As a dealer, how do you deal with the issue of material defects in motorhomes??
We make every effort to resolve justified complaints from our own customers as quickly as possible. In the case of customers who did not purchase their vehicle from us and therefore have no contractual relationship with us, the claim must first be clarified and, under certain circumstances, the manufacturer must be consulted. The repair or elimination of the malfunction itself then always proceeds in the same way: inspect – check/evtl. Order parts – fix.
How do you work with manufacturers in this regard??
As a rule constructive. Manufacturer and dealer have basically the same goal: to help the customer. Of course, there is also a need for discussion here and there.
Who has to bear the costs for repairs??
In the case of justified complaints, first we as the customer’s contractual partner, then the work is settled with the manufacturer/supplier. If there is no entitlement to rectification – for example, because incorrect operation by the customer led to the damage – the customer would have to bear the cost of the repair itself. If the defect is not clear or is the result of misuse, the customer may pay in advance until it is clarified.
How easy it is to get a workshop appointment with a material defect? Are other customers given preference?
We try to help every customer as fast as possible. Cases in which the use of the vehicle is restricted because the refrigerator, heating, electrics, water supply, etc., are not working properly are always dealt with in the same way. do not work, have priority and will be dealt with preferentially. Partly in cooperation with the customer services of the manufacturers. That’s not to say that during peak travel times, there won’t be times when you’ll have to wait on this.
Mobile homes in court: Exemplary verdicts
That’s what it’s about: Between the production of the base vehicle and the first registration of the motorhome are 2 years: Buyer therefore wants to withdraw from the purchase.
Justification: Motorhomes have a considerably higher mileage than passenger cars, and due to their use, longer downtimes are always to be expected. Therefore, a discrepancy of about two years between the completion of the motorhome and the date of first registration does not constitute a material defect in a motorhome sold as a demonstration vehicle at a special price.OLG Karlsruhe v. 19.02.2009, Az. 9 U 176/08
More exemplary cases can be found in the paid PDF version of the article from issue 03/2016.