As motor trade complaints rise make sure you protect yourself

The list of complaints about car sales and repairs is unfortunately still growing, despite the transparency the industry attempts to show it seems that the number of gripes recorded at the OFT reached nearly 70,000 last year (OFT to run rule over second-hand car market). The cost to the consumer is estimated to be £100m as a result of misleading information, faulty cars and, staggeringly, clocked cars. In a market downturn any industry will have those who seek to take advantage of the chaos and attempt to profit from people’s misery and desperation and unfortunately the car business is no different. As firms look to shore up their bottom line and cut costs, corners invariably end up being cut as well and sales and service staff can, in their desperation to make that sale, mislead or worse blatantly lie!

The customers who are hoodwinked in this way then have the major battle of proving who said what and how the car was represented at the point of sale, and although the complaints procedure has become clearer over the years, these figures prove that many buyers are still being ripped off by garages and dealers up and down the country. Our simple advice when buying a car or service is that before entering into a contract, or signing an order make sure that all the information you have been given is accurately recorded and that anything agreed at the point of sale is written or typed clearly on the order. Also if buying a used car which you have seen advertised on the net always print off a copy of the ad, if possible so that any discrepancies can be proved at the point of purchase if the car is in any way not described correctly. The car buyer today will more than ever need to be on their guard and prepare and research thoroughly, it seems a shame that we are still talking about poor service and badly described cars and worse, criminal behaviour. Even when everything seems in order and the paperwork appears correct this cannot always be a guarantee of the quality of the product, for instance if a vehicle service book has a series of dealer stamps recording the history and mileage of a car this is no guarantee that the work has actually been carried out at the mileage stated. It could, and does, sometimes mean that the book has been stamped illegally to give the impression of authenticity. The customer needs to actually confirm that the dealer produces documentation to prove ownership and mileage and if they cannot produce a VMC (vehicle mileage check) then walk away, if they do not produce an Experian or HPI certificate stating that the car is actually the car being sold and has not been involved in major accidents or is owned by a finance company etc, again walk away.

These are simple steps a customer can take to protect themselves but by using a bone fide dealer with a well established business that is committed to providing any evidence required to properly represent his business a prospective customer is half way there.

If we could sum up the best way a customer can protect themselves in four words it would be “get it in writing”.

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