A probe into used car sales in the south-west of England uncovered some £350,000-worth of faults – with a third of the vehicles destined for an MOT test fail and some of them unsafe and likely to cause an accident.
Trading standards officers examined 129 cars at 40 sites and found a host of problems.
A third of the vehicles had faults that would have netted them an MOT test failure, such as tyres that had nearly insufficient and illegal levels of grip, shoddy parts, and suspicious mileage readings. The problems would have cost nearly £350,000 in total to put right.
In addition, some of the dealers broke pricing rules by charging customers extra admin fees that hadn’t been advertised as part of the sale – in one instance, a business had been charging a fee of £99 for each sale so could have made nearly £400,000 every year from those fees alone.
Trading Standards South West was commissioned by National Trading Standards to carry out business compliance audits of used car dealers, targeting the most complained-about traders in the region.
The investigation was carried out between December 2019 and April 2020, with the results being made public just now. Enforcement action has been taken against the traders, meaning the cars can’t be sold until all the faults have been fixed.
Gary Webster, the south-west’s used car lead officer from Cornwall Council, who worked with the team, said: ‘Across the south-west, used car sales is one area that continues to generate high levels of complaint from consumers.
‘The complaints cover a range of issues, including safety, misleading adverts, hidden admin charges and poor customer service.
‘Unfortunately, there are some traders that place profit before the safety and satisfaction of their customers.
‘This investigation has enabled our efforts to be focused on the small minority who generate the most complaints. We are then able to provide targeted advice, or in the worst cases take formal action to protect consumers.’
Stuart Radnedge, regional co-ordination officer for Trading Standards South West, said: ‘Some sellers are clearly out to make as much money as they can with little to no regard to consumer protection rules, customer rights or safety.
‘However, the failure to carry out essential checks can potentially put their customer’s life in danger.
‘Car buying should not be a negative experience. In many cases, we work positively with local car sales businesses to improve the image of the industry and actively encourage the use of trader approval schemes.’
National Trading Standards said used cars were the most complained-about issue every month. In 2019/20, there were nearly 5,000 complaints from callers in the south-west and nearly 3,500 complaints about south-west traders.
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