Dodgy used car dealers are thriving in tough economic times, often at the expense of innocent female motorists. Used car complaints are up by 18% in the first 6 months of 2010 and motorists are paying an average repair bill of £425 for faults that develop soon afterwards, says the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The majority of complaints are always about independent dealers but in 2009 23% of complaints were about franchised dealerships so they will not be immune here.
Despite these statistics and a 9 month study, the OFT feels that the law is adequate to protect motorists as is. It has launched a campaign to tell motorists their rights instead. A sort of caveat emptor marketing communications campaign really.
And after decades of same same, the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) supports this action.
But hang on a minute, haven’t cowboy dealers been selling dangerous cars, making misleading claims about prices and warranties, doctoring service records, issuing MOT certificates regardless and employing aggressive sales tactics in this area pre 2010?
Probably as long as we’ve known about dodgy garage mechanics – about 60 years now.
So what has the industry done to make things better for motorists buying used cars? Nothing that has worked clearly, otherwise things would be better and they aren’t.
Sadly after a small and indignant response from motoring associations who are not best placed to weed out the cowboys, nothing much will happen again.
Whereas FOXY wants to know who these used car cowboys and dodgy garage mechanics are, so we can tell women drivers behind closed doors, via the Club. I think it’s time for a ‘blame and shame’ culture in the absence of industry regulation. So that the offending businesses can either clean up their act or get out of the industry (garages, independent dealers and franchised dealerships alike…).
Does it need to be more complicated?
An added complication, as I see it, occurs if a car in a dangerous state is involved in a fatal accident, the motorist having been sold it by a cowboy dealer or despatched with it after a dodgy mechanic service. I think the legal liability/responsibility lies with the motorist. Who may or may not be able to claim under their motor insurance as insurers tighten up their rules when a car is in a dangerous condition. This all seems unfair to me, from the motorist’s point of view. Surely it’s the offending business, its owner and even the ongoing weak industry standards that should be blamed here.
The Citizens Advice Bureau has recently contributed its experience and views; now we’d like to add ours. Rather than a campaign of consumer advice we’d prefer to see the onus and blame placed firmly on the trader so
- No trader/dealer or auction site can sell ‘as seen’ vehicles and forego responsibility for their condition
- All dealers/auction sites to carry out HPI and/or fully documented vehicle inspection visits/reports
- All MOT certificates issued whilst the car is in the dealer’s possession to be mystery shopped for accuracy
We’d treat faking service histories in the same way as clocking a vehicle – both equally misleading practices designed to boost a selling price. And finally sentence serious and serial offenders to jail* and make sure their misdemeanours and names are well published locally.
*perhaps this happens already?
Only private cars would then be truly caveat emptor, giving the good car dealers the opportunity to be seen as the safer used car buying choice.
And whilst it is small fry compared to knowingly selling a potentially dangerous used car, I can report that Swiss Toni clones are alive and well, chatting up women whilst knowing very little about their cars or what women want.
Fortunately foxy ladies know to go to female friendly used car dealers where they’ll not get overcharged, patronised or sold services they don’t want or need.
Please help us spread the word to women. The dealership you choose to buy from is as important as the car you decide to buy.