Peugeot Citroen Retail UK has been fined £5,000 after Robins and Day’s Gateshead Peugeot failed to declare a used car was previously a Europcar rental vehicle.
The case, which could be the fore-runner of thousands of similar claims, follows official warnings by the ASA over description of former fleet and rental cars as having had “one previous owner”, a customer of the dealership on Bensham Road, Gateshead, contacted Gateshead Council Trading Standards after he discovered that the car had been used by the international car hire firm.
According to information gathered by trading standards officials, the car had been bought in January 2017 for around £10,000.
Within a matter of days its new owner encountered issues with the vehicle, however.
After noticing a burning smell in the car he returned it to the dealership, only to be told that the clutch needed replacement.
Gateshead Council said in a statement: “He was then told that he would need to cover the majority of the costs for the replacement - approximately £650 - himself as the dealership felt the problem had been caused by his wife’s driving style.”
It was only after the new owner received the V5 registration documents for the car a few weeks later that he noticed that the named previous keeper appeared to be the car hire firm Europcar.
He then complained to trading standards who investigated and were able to confirm that the previous keeper had leased the car to Europcar Group UK Ltd and that it had been used as a daily rental car with multiple users.
Gateshead Council Trading Standards prosecuted Peugeot Citroen Retail UK Limited and the business pleaded guilty to an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 .
The retail group was fined £5,000 plus costs of £500. The court also ordered the company to pay the customer £1,000 in compensation.
Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for development, transport and public protection, said: “It is extremely disappointing to find a main car dealership failing to provide its customers with this kind of information.
“It is reassuring that the courts appear to have taken this matter very seriously, and imposed a significant fine and order for compensation.”
Harcus Sinclair told AM's sister title, Fleet News, that less than two weeks after asking used car buyers to register their interest in its used car mis-selling group action related to the sale of former fleet and rental cars, more than 4,000 people have been in touch.
Damon Parker, head of litigation at Harcus Sinclair, said: “I’m surprised by how many people have come forward saying they didn’t know .”
The SMMT told Fleet News that ex-fleet vehicles can be a great used car choice if, as with any other vehicle, it can be shown they have been maintained and serviced properly. It advises consumers to carry out all the relevant background checks before committing to buying a used car.
“Simple steps such as checking the log book, using the DVLA’s vehicle information checker and verifying MOT history can all offer peace of mind to car buyers,” it said.