A Trading Standards investigation has exposed almost £350,000 worth of faults on used cars offered for sale by dealers in the South West of the England.
One-in-three vehicles inspected as part of the investigation in the region had faults that would have failed an MOT test, meaning that traders were selling unsafe vehicles that could cause an accident or lead to high repair costs.
Faulty parts, suspected mileage issues or tyres with illegal levels of tread were among the most common issue with the 129 vehicles being sold that were assessed by Trading Standards between December, 2019, and April this year.
Trading Standards South West CIC Ltd (TSSW), which was commissioned by National Trading Standards to undertake business compliance audits of used car sales premises, also discovered a number of traders charging consumers additional, unadvertised administration fees as part of the vehicle sale – breaching UK pricing regulations.
One business, which charged an admin fee of £99 per sale, stood to make almost £400,000-per-year from the fees, Trading Standards said.
Gary Webster, the South West’s used car lead officer from Cornwall Council, said: “Across the South West, used car sales is one area that continues to generate high levels of complaint from consumers.
“The complaints cover a range of issues, including safety, misleading adverts, hidden admin charges and poor customer service.
“Unfortunately, there are some traders that place profit before the safety and satisfaction of their customers.
“This investigation has enabled our efforts to be focused on the small minority who generate the most complaints.
“We are then able to provide targeted advice, or in the worst cases, take formal action to protect consumers.”
Used cars continue to be the most complained about issue year-on-year within the South West and nationally.
In 2019/20 alone there were nearly 5,000 complaints from consumers in the South West and nearly 3,500 complaints about traders from the region.
Stuart Radnedge, regional co-ordination officer for Trading Standards South West, said: “Some sellers are clearly out to make as much money as they can with little to no regard to consumer protection rules, customer rights or safety.
“However, the failure to carry out essential checks can potentially put their customer’s life in danger.
“Car buying should not be a negative experience. In many cases we work positively with local car sales businesses to improve the image of the industry and actively encourage the use of trader approval schemes.”
Formal enforcement action has now been taken by trading standards which prevents the sale of the cars until all faults have been fixed.