The Office of Fair Trading has today published draft guidelines for second-hand car dealers to ensure that they meet their obligations under consumer law.
The guidance is aimed at dealers who sell on forecourts, but will also apply to dealers who sell through auctions.
In addition, it will help the likes of Trading Standards to ensure that all the relevant laws are being obeyed, as well as helping consumers to understand how the laws apply in this market.
Focus on the law
The guidelines particularly concern the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979, and include advice on several key areas:
the misleading of consumers before, during or after the sale;
aggressive sales tactics;
the steps traders should take to ensure compliance with the law, such as checking the condition, history and mileage of a car.
They also cover the systems that should be in place to handle any complaints.
Before the guidelines are finally confirmed, a public consultation process will run until March 12 next year, and among those being consulted are What Car?, the AA, the RAC and the Trading Standards Institute.
Used car complaints
The publication of these draft guidelines coincides with the publication of four research reports undertaken by the OFT as a result of the high number of complaints generated by the sale of second-hand cars.
The study was launched in May this year to gain a fuller understanding of the market, and the reports cover surveys of second-hand car buyers, second-hand car dealers and local authority Trading Standards Services, as well as a mystery shopping exercise.
The survey of 1000 consumers who had bought a used car from a dealer or auction in the previous 12 months revealed that almost of fifth of buyers had had a problem with the car after buying it; 86 per cent of problems arose within three months of purchase.
Less than half of those who contacted the dealer about the problem said that it was completely rectified.