Faulty and unsafe cars for sale across the South West

​A trading standards investigation into second-hand car sales across the South West has uncovered traders selling faulty and unsafe used cars that could cause an accident or lead to high repair costs.

Of the 129 vehicles being sold that were assessed as part of the investigation, one in every three had faults and would have failed an MOT test. This includes vehicles with faulty parts, suspected mileage issues or tyres with near insufficient and illegal levels of grip. The financial loss to consumers from the potential purchase of these vehicles is estimated to be almost £350,000.

The investigation – which started in December 2019 and concluded in April 2020 – also discovered a number of traders charging consumers additional, unadvertised administration fees as part of the vehicle sale. Such fees are in breach of pricing rules. One business, which charged an admin fee of £99 per sale, stood to make almost £400,000 each year from these fees.

Formal enforcement action has now been taken by trading standards which prevents the sale of the cars until all faults have been fixed.

Used cars continue to be the most complained about issue year-on-year within the South West and nationally.* Trading Standards South West CIC Ltd (TSSW) was commissioned by National Trading Standards to undertake business compliance audits of used car sales premises. These visits targeted the most complained about traders across the South West region.

The team worked with Gary Webster, the South West’s used car lead officer from Cornwall Council, who 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.”

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.” 

Notes to Editors

*Every month Used Cars is the most complained about category. In 2019/20 there were nearly 5000 complaints from SW callers and nearly 3500 complaints about SW traders.

About National Trading Standards

National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality.