Currently, dealers are only obliged to disclose a vehicle's history if the customer asks for it, but new EU legislation under discussion would make it the legal responsibility of the dealer to fully inform the customer without prompting.
The draft EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices, expected to be finalised during 2005, could make it a legal requirement to disclose all significant facts about items for sale, if that knowledge would influence a consumer's decision to buy.
For dealers selling second hand vehicles, such facts are likely to include any damage, or prior ownership details not otherwise apparent to a prospective buyer.
Graham Coleshill, Retail Motor Industry Federation legal director, says: 'The proposed new rules are intended to outlaw misleading omissions. Most dealers would fully disclose these kinds of details, but the consumer will now have the legal right to them. This is good news for all concerned.
'At present there is no legal requirement for a dealer to inform a consumer about elements of the previous history of a vehicle, unless the consumer specifically asks. Under the new rules they may have to make such historical elements known.'
The rules are still in the very early stages of development.