Used car dealers are being urged to make vehicle history checks standard on all stock, regardless of the vehicle’s age, after a Trading Standards investigation led to a trader from Wales being successfully prosecuted for unwittingly selling on a car with outstanding finance against it.
With as many as one in four cars hitting the HPI outstanding finance register, the risk to dealers of damaging their reputation and facing judicial punishment is high.
Although the dealer is known to regularly conduct HPI checks, he admitted that he didn’t on all stock, particularly older vehicles, as was the case of the 55-reg Citroen C3 he sold on.
It led to a total of £1,700 in fines, legal costs and victim surcharges, under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Neil Hodson, deputy managing director for Cap HPI, said: “We’re often hearing about dealers being found guilty in a court of law for selling on clocked cars, be that intentionally or otherwise, but this case concerns outstanding finance which is actually rather rare.
“Dealers should treat this recent prosecution as a stark warning, given a quarter of cars checked with us are on outstanding finance.”
Tim Milsom, a motor trade lead officer for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: “Traders need to follow strict due-diligence protocols before offering vehicles for sale or even accepting them in part exchange. This should not only include physical checks on the vehicle to ensure it is safe and roadworthy, but office checks too.
“Traders must know about several issues including outstanding finance, provenance, DVSA safety recalls, mileage validation, service history, MoT status, as well as accident and cam belt histories. They should then share relevant information with potential buyers.”
The Trading Standards prosecution:
The managers of a company that sold a car to an Aberdare woman that was repossessed from her because it had outstanding finance on it, have been prosecuted by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.
Trading Standards officers launched an investigation after being contacted by a lady who bought a 55-reg Citroen C3 from One Direction Cars in Canal Road, Cwmbach, in May 2014.
She said at no time during the sale was she informed the vehicle still had outstanding finance on it. It was only when she was contacted by a company called Mobile Money, some months after she had bought the car, demanding the £900 outstanding payment.
Initially, Mobile Money gave the lady the chance to sort the matter out with One Direction cars, but nothing was resolved.
Mobile Money told her that One Direction Cars were refusing to pay the outstanding amount and she needed to pay it or the vehicle would be repossessed.
It was eventually repossessed.
Following the complaint, Trading Standards officers were initially told Tahir Karim, who effectively ran One Direction Cars, was in the process of sorting the matter out. Officers carried out an HPI check which revealed the car had money owed to Mobile Money from 2013.
Letters were sent to One Direction Cars’ offices in Cwmbach, Zaher Tarim (35), the director and Tahir Karim (45) by Trading Standards officers, inviting them to attend an interview.
A response came back from Karim, stating he had left employment with the business in November 2014, but claiming he could still speak out on behalf of the business.
He went on to explain that the garage carried out HPI checks, but not on older vehicles. He said there was no HPI check on this car as they bought it in a state of disrepair from a car dealer, who had bought it direct from the first owner.
They had bought it in good faith as they had bought other cars from the dealer and said they were unaware of the outstanding finance.
He said that following the complaint from the latest buyer, he did contact Mobile Money, who asked for payment of £900 and he asked for proof of the outstanding finance. On that basis, they did not pay the money as they needed proof and an invoice to pay it.
He also accepted that he was aware that it was an offence to give the impression something could be legally sold when it could not.
He also confirmed the garage now undertook an HPI check on all vehicles.
The investigating officer sent a follow-up letter with supplementary questions, but Karim failed to respond.
On January 7 this year, One Direction Cars Ltd, Karim and Karim admitted one offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The company was fined £400 and ordered to pay costs of £200 and £40 victim surcharge.
Karim was fined £300 and ordered to pay costs of £200 and £40 victim surcharge. Karim was also fined £300 and ordered to pay costs of £200 and £40 victim surcharge.
Compensation for the complainant was not sought on the basis that the bank had already refunded her the money for the vehicle, although the bank may seek to recover the money from the defendants.
Paul Mee, director of public health and protection at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “This is not the first time we have had to deal with this company as a result of complaints from customers and I hope this case once again reassures consumers that we do take offences seriously and will investigate and prosecute where appropriate.
“Residents have the right to be able to purchase high-quality, safe and legal vehicles from trusted dealers. To be sold a vehicle that is later repossessed as it has outstanding finance on it is just not acceptable.
“Our advice to residents is to always ensure they buy from a trusted dealer and to ensure they check the terms and conditions of the sale before signing any contract. Check HPI paperwork and, if necessary, bring in a third party professional to undertake a check for you, so you are clear on what you are purchasing.”