A Newry man was today fined a total of £5,000 at Newry Magistrates’ Court.
In a case brought by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s Trading Standards Service, Paul Finnegan (27), pleaded guilty to 10 charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for operating as a hidden car dealer and selling a “clocked” car which had previously been declared an insurance write off.
Finnegan was fined a total of £5,000 together with Court costs and also ordered to pay compensation of £1,000 to the purchaser of the vehicle.
Paul Finnegan from Greenfield Park, Newry admitted selling a BMW 320d M Sport which had been “clocked” by at least 32,500 miles.
The Court also heard evidence that the car had been a write off, had been superficially fixed up and later sold by Finnegan to an unsuspecting consumer.
After the consumer had the car a short time it started displaying significant mechanical defects which aroused the consumer’s suspicion and a complaint was made to the Trading Standards Service.
The Trading Standards Service began an investigation into Mr. Finnegan’s online trading activities and as a result discovered that Finnegan was a car trader who had advertised a large number of cars for sale online whilst posing as a private individual.
In this case, Finnegan failed to provide his address to the consumer and had instead met and concluded the deal at a roundabout in the Newry area in the hope that the consumer should have no future means of redress.
Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 it is a criminal offence for a trader to falsely claim that he is acting for a purpose not related to his trade or business and traders must clearly indicate that they are in trade when advertising and selling cars. Under the Regulations, traders also commit an offence if they mislead consumers about goods offered for sale.
Consumers are afforded greater statutory protection when they buy from a trader as opposed to goods bought from private sellers. Car traders also have a responsibility to ensure that all descriptions applied to vehicles are correct and not misleading. A trader must also provide consumers with all material information regarding a vehicle.
Linda Patton of the Trading Standards Service said: “This type of case has become all too common and unfortunately Trading Standards Service has noticed an increased trend whereby so called hidden traders use the internet to pose as private sellers and advertise cars that may not be all that they seem. Consumers must be vigilant when purchasing a used vehicle. This case should serve as a warning to hidden car traders that the Trading Standard Service regularly monitors internet advertisements and will not hesitate to take enforcement action against traders who do not adhere to Consumer Protection legislation.”
The Trading Standards Service offers the following advice to consumers when buying a car.
· Buy from a reputable dealer: Vehicles may cost more when bought from a main dealer but they will have carried out checks on the vehicle’s mileage before offering cars for sale.
· Bring someone with you that knows about cars: Excessive wear and tear on the driver’s seat, steering wheel and foot pedals may be inconsistent with the indicated mileage.
· Ensure that you see all of the relevant original paperwork: The logbook, the car’s service history and MOT certificates. With this information, you can contact the previous owners of the vehicle as well as the garages that carried out the servicing work to ask questions about the history of the vehicle. Everything should be present and correct. If it is not, simply walk away from the deal.
· If you know the registration and chassis numbers of a vehicle, you can contact the Driver Vehicle Agency to enquire about the recorded mileage of the vehicle at its previous MOTs.
· Do not take a substantial amount of cash to buy a car from someone you don’t know at a car park, filling station forecourt or other unusual location.
Any consumers who feel that they may have been misled when buying a car or other goods should contact Consumerline 0300 123 6262.
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