CLOCKING is becoming a genuine issue in the used-car sector for the first time in decades, reports motor trade bible Glass’s – but this time it is motorists rather than dealers who are illegally reducing mileage.
The practice is occurring where drivers exceed the contracted number of miles on fixed-mileage leases, such as a PCP, and want to avoid an excess-mileage penalty charge on returning the car, which can run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
Drivers are increasingly turning to mileage-adjustment companies who use specialist equipment to artificially reduce the number of miles showing on the odometer.
Because most of the vehicles involved have been supplied new and are less than three years old, there is no MoT certificate and often only one service stamp, so the paper trail doesn’t reveal the mileage has been altered.
Rupert Pontin, head of valuations at Glass’s, said: ‘Some drivers facing a PCP returns charge may consider clocking as an easy way of avoiding payment but their actions are illegal.
‘The issue tends to come to light when the car is prepared for sale either by the original dealer or another who has subsequently bought the car, probably at auction. They plug the vehicle into their diagnostic rig as part of their standard vehicle preparation procedure and, depending on the model, an error code will show what has occurred.
‘This places the dealer in a very difficult position because it is next-to-impossible to prove when the clocking took place. It is often too late to take any action against the driver because the PCP returns paperwork has already been processed and, anyway, they will usually just deny they have clocked the car.’
Pontin said Glass’s had come across several cases of this type in recent months being reported by dealers and motor auctions.
He said: ‘At this stage, it is very difficult to say how widespread this practice might be but we are certainly seeing an increasing amount of industry “chatter” about the subject and it is considered a growing problem, especially as PCPs continue to massively increase their market penetration.’
There was no easy answer to the problem, Pontin said, although closer regulation of mileage adjustment companies was one potential route.
He said: ‘Mileage adjustment of electronic odometers exists for all kinds of good and perfectly legal reasons, such as to correct the reading on a car that has had its dashboard replaced or where the odometer has failed. However, while we have no reason to believe the majority of operators are anything other than ethical, there do appear to be at least a few who will reduce your mileage without asking many questions.
‘One solution is for dealers to check vehicles for clocking as part of their standard PCP returns procedure. This would effectively “prove” the vehicle had been clocked during the contract period, placing the onus on the driver for what is, after all, a form of fraud and quite a serious crime.’
Pontin added that clocking by dealers – once considered prevalent in the motor trade – had effectively become almost unknown because of the strict penalties that existed.
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