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Buying from abroad

By Virginia Thompson,2014-05-15 12:36
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Buying from abroad

    OFT WARNS OF ?3MILLION CAR-SELLING SCAM

    OFT, police, Trading Standards, and industry launch action to drive out

    scammers

The OFT is today warning consumers about vehicle matching scams which

    cost UK consumers nearly ?3 million every year.

    Vehicle matching scams work by approaching consumers selling their cars and promising falsely to match them with definite buyers. Typically, the

    seller is cold-called by phone once they have placed an advert in a magazine,

    on a website or in a newspaper. They are promised that a buyer exists for

    their vehicle but are required to pay a matcher’s fee up front before the sale is

    completed. However in many cases there is no buyer, the contract with the

    vehicle matcher cannot be cancelled, and any money paid is lost.

    Last year over 1600 private sellers of second hand cars complained to OFT advice service Consumer Direct about the practice, losing between ?80

    and ?99 each, but the true number of victims is thought to be much larger.

    The OFT has co-ordinated the sharing of intelligence between different enforcement agencies to target action against traders engaged in unfair

    commercial practices, assisted on enforcement action, and has organized a

    day of action with the police, local authority Trading Standards Services and

    consumer bodies to crack down on the car matching scammers. As part of the

    action TSS officers are also due to carry out inspections.

    The OFT is also working with online and print motoring publications and websites who are members of the Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group

including Autotrader, Exchange and Mart, eBay, Pistonheads and

    Motors.co.uk to put in place clear and prominent warnings for consumers

    who put their cars up for sale about these scams. The UK European

    Consumer Centre (UK ECC), European Consumer Centre Dublin, and Which?

    are also supporting the campaign.

    The manger of the UK ECC, Jed Mayatt, said:

    ‘We are happy to support the OFT in their campaign to end the car matching scam. Too many people have lost money to these rogues, it not

    only affects UK consumers but others in Europe’

    Mike Haley, OFT Director of Consumer Protection, said:

    ‘Time is up for rogue traders who attempt to cheat sellers with false promises of a guaranteed buyer for their cars. We are working with the

    industry and enforcement partners across the UK to crack down on scammers

    who are preying on consumers during the economic downturn.’

    Motor trade lead officer Peter Stratton, Trading Standards Institute, said:

    'High pressure selling alongside cold calling makes this a very successful scam, often leaving the consumer with very little chance of

    obtaining redress. Partners are working together to help educate and protect

    consumers in respect of these rogues.'

    ***ENDS***

For further information please contact Trading Standards Institute press office

    on 0845 608 9430.

    Notes to Editors

1. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Regulations 2008 prohibits unfair

    commercial practices and, in particular those which constitute misleading

    actions, misleading omissions and aggressive commercial practices. The

    Regulations are enforceable through the civil and criminal courts. Breach of

    the law is an offence punishable by up to two years imprisonment and/or

    an unlimited fine.

2. Car-matching scammers have easy access to car sellers’ details

    through online publications and newspapers, and a number of individuals

    involved in such scams are associated with more than one company.

    Consumers across the country have been targeted. The OFT has also

    been informed that consumers from the Republic of Ireland have been

    targeted by some of the same UK traders.

3. There has been a concentration of these scam companies operating

    from around North London and Hertfordshire and several recent

    enforcement cases have been successfully brought against these rogue

    traders by trading standards. Recent action taken against vehicle matching

    companies includes a prosecution taken under the Trade Descriptions Act

    1968 by Hertfordshire County Council Trading Standards. See press

    release http://news.hertsdirect.org/Release.aspx?a=1&id=7704&_cat=11.

    The OFT have also removed the consumer credit licence from a London

    vehicle matching company in November 2008

    (www.oft.gov.uk/news/press/2008/127-08). In addition, Companies

    Investigation Branch has taken action leading to several scam vehicle

    matching companies being compulsorily wound up.

4. The OFT is also warning employees of rogue car matching firms that

    they will be individually liable for prosecution for knowingly and dishonestly

    misleading consumers.

5. Earlier this month, the OFT launched a market study into the sale of

    second-hand cars related to franchised and independent dealers. Though

    not looking at private car sales, its findings will aim to provide clarity across

    the wider second-hand car market. See press release

    http://www.oft.gov.uk/news/press/2009/51-09

6. If you think you have been the victim of a vehicle matching scam, or

    you suspect a scam, call Consumer Direct for clear, practical consumer

    advice on 08454 04 05 06.

7. Consumers need to be alert especially during the current economic

    climate. Consumer Direct advises:

    ? Stop, think and be sceptical if you are cold called and are asked

    for money in advance.

    ? Don't give your credit or debit card details to people you don't

    know.

    ? Stop, think and be sceptical if promises are made which gives

    the impression that there are immediate buyers for your car, that

    finance has already been arranged for potential buyers, that buyers

    are willing to pay your asking price or more, there are buyers ready

    to view your car immediately or that you will be offered a refund if

    the car does not sell.

    ? If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Don’t be pressured

    into anything If in doubt about a particular telephone call, hang up.

    For more information on vehicle matching scams go to

    www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/vehiclematching

Trading Standards Institute

Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading

    Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of

    ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest

    level of government, both nationally and internationally.

    Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our

    members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging

    and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue

    trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of

    citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in

    local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints

    and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such

    as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

    They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in

    promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of

    individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional

    trading standards contributions and interventions.

UK European Consumer Centre 08456 04 05 03

The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer

    Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 29 centres covering Europe including

    Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support

    to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country

    outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve

    the complaint.

UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and

    services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday

    clubs, air travel.

UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise and

    Regulatory Reform, and the European Commission.

The Trading Standards Institute hosts the service at their head offices.

Media queries should sent to ecc@tsi.org.uk or by phone on 08456 08 96 06.

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