Car dealers are being warned authorities are attempting to catch out Covid rule breakers with a series of clandestine mystery shops across the country.
Trading Standards, the police and Health and Safety Executive have all been reported to have mystery shopped car dealers to ensure they are following the rules.
Marshall Motor Group boss Daksh Gupta revealed the crackdowns were happening ‘everywhere’ and that he’s dealt with 10 since the last lockdown.
Independent dealers are also reporting ‘strange phone calls’ from apparent customers asking them to push the rules for a sale or test drive.
Gupta said: ‘As a business we have been rigorous and I am proud to say that we have adhered to all the rules laid down by the government 100 per cent.
‘We have been mystery shopped no fewer than 10 times since the last lockdown by the police, Trading Standards and the Health and Safety Executive and passed on all 10 occasions.
‘Our recent mystery shops, which were at our VW operations in Essex, the police and the Health and Safety Executive commented that we were doing nothing wrong offering click and collect services, but the key priority is that no one must enter the showroom under any circumstances.’
Gupta said it is vital the industry focuses on being ‘whiter than white’ and that he had warned all his staff that anyone who breaks the rules will face disciplinary action.
Car Dealer has contacted the Trading Standards press office for comment, but they have not responded.
Chairman of the Independent Motor Dealers Association, Umesh Samani, reported that many of its members had been fielding unusual phone calls which they think are attempts to catch them out.
He said: ‘Many dealers including me have had ‘strange’ calls with customers pushing to visit to see cars.
‘I’ve had three or four from withheld numbers asking if they could sneak down if I put the car round the back or something similar.
‘They’re quite pushy. I am not sure if these were traps or genuine buyers who really wanted to look before committing, but my reply has always been a very strong “sorry we’re closed” for physical sales.
‘Bizarrely they do not want to listen about click and collect or delivery options and if they were genuine buyers they would listen then make a decision if they were happy to proceed or not.’
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Car Dealer has heard unconfirmed reports of some dealers that are attempting to push the rules. One group is even reported to have been fined, but those rumours are unsubstantiated at this time.
Chris Wiseman, managing director of Wessex Garages, said he has also heard of some dealers flouting the rules and thinks the damage to reputation will be disastrous for those that do.
He told Car Dealer: ‘We are currently operating from three hubs on a click and collect basis only with every enquiry taken by our online navigator team remotely.
‘Four showrooms are completely closed except for the aftersales teams. Everyone is clear that no conversations are to take place in a showroom or on site and under no circumstances are we to carry out demonstrations.
‘I am hearing of businesses trying to circumnavigate the rules which I find amazing. The damage to the reputation of the company cannot be quantified if caught.
‘So far we have not been approached by Trading Standards albeit if they have been on site enquiring they would have been asked to leave and contact us online.’
Car dealers are allowed to offer sales via a click and collect service where the whole deal has been facilitated online. Test drives should not be offered and showrooms must be closed.