Crackdown on dodgy car sellers

* New consumer laws into effect * 31 unfair practices banned * Bait advertising outlawed...

Crackdown on dodgy car sellers

New laws come into force today that are designed to stop car buyers being ripped off in the biggest shake-up of consumer law for decades.

The Consumer Protection Regulations (CPRs) are designed to protect buyers from general dodgy selling, and will apply to all businesses that trade directly with consumers including car dealers and mechanics.

31 types of unfair sales practices are banned outright, such as posing as a private dealer and using bait advertising, where low prices are advertised when only limited stock is available.

There is concern that the fear of being ripped off could be damaging honest car dealers. According to a recent study of 2000 motorists, 65% thought that second-hand car dealers are likely to rip them off.

Eight out of 10 said they would be more likely to buy from a second-hand car dealer if there were stricter laws in place to punish those who treat customers unfairly.

New car sellers could also be affected. Advertising a low price to reel a customer in, with a view to selling a different product at a higher price, will also be banned. This should help protect online buyers, as well as those shopping at their local dealership.

Displaying an unauthorised trust mark, quality mark or equivalent, and making false claims about being a signatory to a code of conduct are also banned - meaning consumers are now better protected from rip-off repairers, too.

Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas, said: 'Honest traders understand the value of treating customers fairly and theyve had enough of losing profit to rivals using underhand tactics to get ahead.

'The Consumer Protection Regulations will deliver better protection for consumers, cut red tape and put in place a simpler and clearer consumer law that will be easier to interpret and enforce.'

Whether the new laws will actually work remains to be seen. They will be enforced by Trading Standards and the OFT, and penalties for offenders include unlimited fines and lengthy prison sentences.