Saxton 4x4 have been fined £27,375 and ordered to pay £37,375 in costs after a Trading Standards investigation uncovered evidence of “deliberate mis-selling” and “very poor business practices”.
Prosecution of the £98m turnover ID50 independent car retailer based at Westway, Chelmsford, followed complaints received by Essex Trading Standards surrounding the sale and description of a vehicle which it sold on more than one occasion during the course of 2017 and 2018.
A jury sitting at Chelmsford Crown Court heard from counsel for the prosecution, Alison Lambert, that the vehicle had been sold to the first customer as a 2015 vehicle and it was discovered by that customer via a franchised retailer that it had in fact been first registered in Germany in 2011.
He informed the business and was refunded.
However, the vehicle went on to be sold by Saxton 4x4 on two further occasions and a non-returnable deposit placed by another potential customer based on an inaccurate description.
Essex Trading Standards said in a statement that the business had been informed of the problems with the age description of the vehicle on each occasion but had failed to modify their advertisements or any of their sales communications to reflect the real age of the vehicle or to inform the subsequent purchasers of the true age of the vehicle.
Essex Trading Standards brought the prosecution under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
In total, seven charges were brought against Saxton 4x4 and seven against managing director Alan Austin.
The jury found the company guilty on six charges and not guilty on one charge relating to a single customer.
Austin was found not guilty on all seven charges against him in his capacity as a director.
The business was sentenced in relation to six counts of misleading consumers at Chelmsford Crown Court last Friday (November 1).
Delivering his sentence, His Honour Judge Seely described Saxton 4x4’s submission that it had not received four recorded delivery letters highlighting the true date of first registration “wholly implausible” and rejected it entirely.
Judge Seely sentenced Saxton 4x4 Ltd to a fine of £27,375 and costs of £37,375. Three victims were also awarded compensation.
He remarked that “there were elements of deliberate mis-selling and that there were a number of relating to the sale of the vehicle in question”.
Furthermore, that he described some of the company witnesses as “unimpressive to say the least”.
Cllr Susan Barker, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for customer, corporate, culture and communities, said: “The purchase of car is often the second largest financial decision that a consumer makes, they need to feel confident that they can rely on the information provided by the dealer.
“Essex County Council Trading Standards has an ongoing commitment to protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for businesses.”
Last month Saxton 4x4 was listed among the UK's biggest growing mid-sized car retail operations in the latest Sunday Times Top Track to 250 after it grew its profits by 122% to £6.6m.
This came alongside a 9% increase in turnover, to £138m, which landed it 208th in the prestigious annual rankings.