Trading Standards scrutinise second-hand car dealers

Trading Standards officers are focusing on the practices of used car dealers and garages across Devon and Somerset.

Every year Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service receives over 2,000 complaints about second-hand cars and servicing.

Since April 2015 officers have inspected 56 car forecourts, garages, and traders selling used tyres.

Officers also booked a car into garages offering free safety checks to test if defects reported by the trader were genuine.

Officers have:

•    Visited 18 forecourts with 13 cars withdrawn from sale.
•    38 premises selling part worn tyres inspected –  23 traders had inadequate documentation,  14 had non-compliant labelling and 13 partly worn tyres with structural defects were found and were withdrawn from sale.
•    Officers submitted a car to 13 garages that offered free safety checks.  Twelve passed, but one trader returned the vehicle in an unsatisfactory condition after carrying out work on the brakes.

These actions follow the Used Car Commission proposing a greater focus on information gathering so issues could be quickly acted on and are based on an assessment of intelligence received.

To help this:

•    One of the service’s  officers was appointed to the Used Car Commission,
•    With more vehicle traders selling online, the service joined the Vehicle Selling Platforms Safe Trading Advisory Group (VSTAG).  This gives the service a voice on national issues and advises operators of internet selling platforms.
•    The service is urging traders to sign up to the Buy with Confidence (BWC) scheme, which shows that a trader operates within the law.

In October 2015 the new Consumer Rights Act came into force.  The Act clarifies consumer rights when they have purchased faulty goods.

Paul Thomas, Head of Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service said: “The new provisions of the Consumer Rights Act provide an opportunity for improved levels of consumer satisfaction but this will only be achieved if both traders and consumers are aware of, and understand, their rights and obligations.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, said: “I am pleased that our officers have adopted a balanced approach to their enforcement activities by trying to have a national influence on policy, providing advice and assistance to local traders, and only taking formal action against the most serious offenders. The results of this year’s activities have shown that the majority of traders are operating professionally, with most of the problems found being willingly rectified.”

Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council added, “Looking for traders that have signed up to relevant codes of practice, or buying from a BWC member should help consumers avoid unnecessary problems.  BWC members have been audited by trading standards officers and consumers can be assured that their trading practices are honest and fair.”

To complain or for details regarding the protections for consumers contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 03454 04 05 06.

Extra Information:

• 7 million used cars are sold each year with the used car market valued at approximately £38 billion.
• The AA estimates that 750,000 consumers a year face unresolved problems with a used car purchase and 210,000 vehicles are sold each year with a major fault.
• Between April 2013 and March 2014, Citizens Advice dealt with 69,342 enquiries relating to second-hand cars.