SCOTS motor dealers have been warned they face criminal action and compensation claims if they do not disclose if a second hand car they are selling is an former business use vehicle.

Trading standards officers in Scotland have issued new guidance to help second hand car dealers adhere to consumer law and help stop the mis-selling of used cars.

They have warned it is not enough to just disclose the number of previous owners or declare the correct mileage.

The guidance comes a month after concerns surfaced about dealers selling vehicles with “one previous owner” that had actually been company or rental cars.

The Herald:

A recent ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) stated drivers have a “viable case” against user-approved dealers if there was no transparency over whether a used car was ex-business use.

Estimates suggest there are as many as one million former rental or fleets cars sold in the UK each year.

The ASA said it would warn car manufacturers and dealers to tell them to include information during the sales process that would alert buyers of former rental cars.

Campaigners believe hundreds of previously mis-sold people could be owed money, especially in relation to ex-rental vehicles.

In April 2016, Citizens Advice Scotland reported that “used car purchased from an independent dealer” was almost universally the number one issue reported in each Scottish local authority area.

Now new guidance published by the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland has warned motor dealers that inaccurate information about the status of second hand cars could lead to criminal and civil court action.

The society said an example of a misleading omission was “failing to disclose a vehicle for sale is an ex-business use vehicle which may have had multiple users”.

That included giving the impression a vehicle has one previous user when it is an ex-business use vehicle that has had multiple previous users – such as an ex-rental, driving school vehicle or taxi.”

The document warns: “If you mislead, behave aggressively or otherwise act unfairly towards consumers, then you are likely to be in breach of the CPRs (Consumer Protection Regulations) and may face criminal or civil enforcement action. In certain circumstances consumers can take legal action against traders...”

The Herald:

SCOTSS says the guidance is intended to help second-hand car dealers comply with a number of important pieces of consumer protection law, such as the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The guidance warns that dealers convicted of committing an offence under the CPRs face a summary conviction in the Sheriff or Justice of the Peace Court in Scotland with a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum of £5,000.

More serious breaches that result in a conviction in a Sheriff or High Court in Scotland can result in an unlimited fine or imprisonment of up to two years, or both.

It also warns that in certain circumstances consumer may make a claim through the civil courts against a trader "for breaches of some of the CPRs principles, in particular where misleading statements have been made about products and that information was relied upon".

Peter Adamson, chairman of SCOTSS said:  “Secondhand car sales is still a significant area of consumer detriment in Scotland, and complaint numbers are still high, partly due to the complexity and nature of the product, and partly due to the complexity of the law.

We are publishing this comprehensive guide to the law to help car dealers in Scotland comply with the law and improve the level of service they give to their customers."

Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) said:  “This document is a welcome addition to the level of guidance and advice available to our members and the wider industry of professionals who are engaged in the retailing of used vehicles across Scotland. By adhering to the detailed advice given, our membership can expect to maximize their exposure to the motoring consumers seeking to buy their next vehicle”.

He added “we are delighted to have been involved in the creation of these guidelines which will serve our membership and the consumer well for years to come”.