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A dispute over a car sale fuels a stronger community

A family-owned car dealership is taken to court by a disgruntled customer. Mediation leads to clear communication and better understanding on both sides of the table. The result? A satisfied customer and a happy ending.

A local car dealership is sued by an unhappy customer

The family owners of a local car dealership couldn’t believe they were being sued by a customer. They were certain they’d done nothing wrong—certainly nothing that warranted a court case. But their customer—James—had a different opinion. James believed he was sold a lemon. His new car broke down only months after the purchase. And after repeated calls to the dealership for help, James got angry and demanded a refund.

James brought the car to the dealership’s mechanic, thinking a face-to-face-meeting would sort things out. But the situation got more complicated. James had modified the car. Modifications meant the warranty was void. James felt desperate. He needed someone to hear his side, so he forced the issue by filing a lawsuit.

The case is diverted to mediation

The case never made it to court, and instead was diverted to mediation. Through mediation James calmly explained to the owner of the dealership that he was acting on the advice of the salesman. He said he’d been told that the modifications he wanted to make would be fine and even encouraged; that they would enhance the performance of the car. James said the salesman guaranteed that the modifications would have no effect on the warranty.

When they heard what their salesman promised James, the owners finally understood the context for the court case. They realized that this was a customer relationship issue that needed to be handled with care. They’d had numerous issues in the past with this salesman—in fact he’d already been let go.

Mediation leads to an agreement——and a happy customer

Now that both parties had a shared understanding of a bad situation, they were able to brainstorm ideas. The dealership agreed to either split the cost of the repair with James, or give him credit towards a new vehicle. They also gave him a store credit for 10 oil changes at their shop over the next three years. In return, James agreed to take down negative comments he had posted about the dealership on a public website. Both parties ended the mediation with a hand shake, a better understanding of the situation, and a satisfactory agreement.

Mediation resolves conflicts between businesses and consumers

If you, or someone you know has a dispute with a local business call your community DRC for help.


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