The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has commenced unannounced inspections of car dealers nationwide. The focus of these inspections is to identify and take enforcement action against dealers who mislead consumers in the sale of crashed and/or clocked cars.
Isolde Goggin, Chairperson of the CCPC said, “Consumers need to be able to rely on accurate information from car dealers in relation to a vehicle’s roadworthiness and its history, including mileage. All material information should be fully disclosed to a consumer before they make a purchase; failure to do so is not only costly and potentially dangerous for the consumer, it is also a breach of the law.
“The CCPC has investigated and taken enforcement action against a number of traders in relation to the sale of clocked or crashed cars where such information was not disclosed to the consumer. Most recently, in February this year, Dublin motor trader, Jonathan McSherry, was sentenced to three months in prison for providing a consumer with false information in relation to the mileage of a car.
“Traders who sell cars to consumers are responsible for any false or misleading information they provide. And in this regard, traders should take note that if they mislead consumers about the vehicles they are selling or if they sell defective vehicles, they are breaking the law.
“Over the coming months we will be conducting unannounced inspections of motor garages across the country and we will use our powers to challenge and take enforcement action against traders found to be misleading consumers. If anyone has information regarding a trader that they believe has provided false information about a car’s condition or mileage, they should contact the CCPC’s consumer helpline on 1890 432 432 or email us at email@example.com.”
The Relevant legislation:
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 prohibits traders from misleading consumers when selling clocked or crashed cars. Misleading information may include: a false odometer reading, if the vehicle is not roadworthy or if the vehicle has been written-off by an insurer. The onus is on the trader to ensure that they have carried out the relevant checks into the history before selling a vehicle. It is important to note that the Consumer Protection Act does not cover the sale of a car from a private seller.
Enforcement Measures include:
Prosecution, Compliance Notice, Undertaking, and Prohibition Order.
Recent cases against motor traders taken by the CCPC
· Jonathan McSherry: On 16 February 2017, Jonathan McSherry, trading at Station Road Autos, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, was sentenced to three months in prison for providing a consumer with false information in relation to the mileage of a car. This followed an investigation and subsequent prosecution by the CCPC after we received a complaint from a consumer regarding a vehicle they had purchased from him. This was the first custodial sentence, for a breach of the Consumer Protection Act, arising from an investigation by the CCPC/its predecessor.
· Timmy Keane: In July 2016, Timmy Keane of 118 Harold’s Cross Cottages, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6, was convicted for the second time of providing false information in relation to a vehicle’s previous history (a false odometer reading). Following the conviction Judge O’Neill adjourned sentencing until 12 December 2016 to enable Mr Keane to compensate the consumer to the tune of €5,000 because of an application made by the CCPC. In addition, the consumer will be allowed to retain the vehicle. Subsequently sentencing has been adjourned until June 2017 to enable My Keane to complete payment of the compensation.
In April 2014 Mr Timmy Keane and VK Motors were both convicted of providing false information in relation to a vehicle’s odometer reading and fined €500. Following the conviction, the National Consumer Agency applied for, and was granted a compensation order of €7,000 against Mr Keane who was required to pay this to the consumer he misled.
· Phoenix Motors: In November 2015 the CCPC took enforcement action against Phoenix Motor Company. The action was taken following an investigation into the company’s online advertising which was found to have misled consumers by advertising a false mileage for a car that was for sale. The advertised mileage did not match the actual mileage of the car, and consumers became aware of the true mileage when they viewed the car. Following our investigation we issued a Compliance Notice compelling the company to ensure that all future advertising is fully accurate.
· McCormack Car Sales Limited: In December 2015 McCormack Car Sales Limited, Sligo, was required to provide an undertaking to the CCPC when they were found to have provided false and misleading information to a consumer in relation to the mileage of a car. Having purchased a car from the garage a consumer discovered a number of faults that had to be repaired. They also discovered other issues that they were not made aware of at the time of purchasing the car, such as the fact that the car had been involved in two single vehicle road traffic accidents in 2007 and 2009. Following an agreement with McCormack’s Car Sales, including the provision of an alternative car and compensation, the CCPC issued a Compliance Notice compelling the trader to comply with the law.
· Mr. Brian Fassnidge: In October 2014, Brian Fassnidge was convicted at Dublin District Court for providing misleading information and for supplying a dangerous product by selling a defective vehicle. Mr Fassnidge had to pay €4,000 in fines, €10,000 in costs and €1,000 in compensation to consumers. This is in addition to the €17,200 which Mr Fassnidge had repaid to the affected consumers. This was the first conviction for selling an unsafe product.