OFT WARNS OF ?3MILLION CAR-SELLING SCAM
OFT, police, Trading Standards, and industry launch action to drive out
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.'
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
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
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
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
? 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
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
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and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue
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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
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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
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.
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