Siobhan Kelly got much more than she bargained for from what should have been a straightforward purchase of a second-hand Audi.
Siobhan purchased an Audi Allroad for $9000 from West Auckland car dealership Universal Imports, trading in her old Toyota for $2000 and putting another $7000 on finance.
Unfortunately, she didn’t get a pre-purchase inspection which might have saved her a lot of trouble, as two weeks later the car broke down.
Universal Imports agreed to carry out repairs. But when the car was returned to Siobhan it broke down before she even got home.
As Siobhan has a five-year-old son, she didn’t want a car that she felt was unsafe, so on the advice of a lawyer, she contacted Universal Imports to say she wanted to reject the car as was her right under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).
Universal Imports ignored the request and said they’d take the car back to have another go at fixing it.
The dealership returned the car saying it was a faulty speed sensor and it had been repaired. But Siobhan wanted to be absolutely sure it was safe to drive, so she took the car to an independent mechanic to have a post-purchase check.
The inspection revealed a long list of problems and Siobhan wasn’t happy about driving the car.
So again she told Universal Imports she wanted to reject the car under the CGA. Again, her request was ignored.
Siobhan then filed a complaint with the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal (MVDT). When the case was heard, both parties filed their mechanics’ assessments, but they were so different, the MVDT decided to carry out its own inspection.
Even the results of this were mixed, with some points found in favour of the car dealership, and some supporting Siobhan’s complaint.
Overall, the MVDT ruled that Siobhan did have the right to reject the car. It ordered Universal Imports to take back the Audi, settle with the finance company and repay Siobhan the $3300 she had spent so far.
Universal Imports complied with the first two instructions, but after the 10-day cut-off, it still hadn’t given Siobhan any money.
Siobhan demanded that they pay her. She also posted a one-star Google review explaining what had happened and calling the company “shady, dishonest and dodgy”.
It was at this point she says a campaign of intimidation began.
While her review focused on the company, the response from Universal Imports was more personal.
It referred to her comments as, “half truths and lies by someone frustrated and perhaps on medication of some type legal or otherwise”.
Then the owner of the dealership also posted on his own Facebook page.
“It's a solo mother of course which means some drunk soul must have been severely wasted to sire a kid with it or perhaps artificial insemination was performed due to the visual horror that it is."
The owner of Universal Imports is Andrew Peck, who is also a competitive kickboxer.
He did take the post down after a while, but then Siobhan says other forms of intimidation began.
There was a photographer in the street who snapped her coming out of her house early one morning during lockdown. There were phone calls from a freelance journalist who wouldn’t say who he was writing for but persistently asked her questions about her dealings with the company.
It soon became clear what the calls related to.
Siobhan had a so-called news story sent to her phone. It featured the photo of her and a photo of Peck in the kickboxing ring.
It included a lengthy interview with the owner in which he likened meeting Siobhan to “being diagnosed with dysentery” and says she made his life, “an absolute misery with her campaign of lies and misinformation on social media”.
Siobhan says the only thing she did was to repost her Google review on to the Massey Community Facebook page.
But Peck makes a chilling statement saying, “if these comments continue I'll be taking action to silence her for good”.
As a result of all this, Siobhan developed post traumatic stress disorder and had to leave her job.
Plus, she still hadn’t been paid. But she wasn’t giving up. She paid $600 in legal fees for a letter demanding payment or court action, and she came to Fair Go asking for help.
Fair Go were told Peck was in Japan and wouldn’t answer his phone, so the only option was to email him to ask for his side of the story.
No direct response, but after six weeks of no payment, the money owed to Siobhan appeared in her account.
A while later Fair Go did receive an email. It didn’t give any explanation for the late payment. Instead it claimed the article sent to Siobhan was down to “great will, determination, spirit and a can-do attitude”.
It made more derogatory comments about Siobhan saying she was “a woman with attitude and no brains”.
But it didn’t stop there, also advising reporter Gill Higgins to, “engage your brain before asking silly questions which expose what a limited grasp you have of the issues”.
On reading the email, Siobhan said she wasn’t surprised: “There's no professionalism, no maturity, it’s astounding that at no point can he say he made a mistake, it’s a bad deal for both of us so let's just move on."
Siobhan now plans to do just that, but was keen to be upfront about what had happened in order to make her community aware of how Universal Imports sometimes operates, so that others needing a new vehicle, “could make an informed decision when spending their hard-earned money on a big purchase like a car”.