Legal Article - Business Law

Vehicle Condition and the Declarations you Must Make

When you stock good quality vehicles you may be tempted to advertise them using glowing phrases and words. Whilst in many cases this is justified and will not cause grounds for concern you should be aware that what you say may not convey what you mean. 

It may also have legal connotations as it could breach Consumer Protection legislation.

If you describe a vehicle as 'excellent condition throughout' then be aware that the description applies to the mechanical condition and condition of the bodywork alike and by comparison to a vehicle of similar age to the vehicle in question.

Similar phrases such as 'beautiful'  'mechanically sound' 'immaculate' 'pristine' will be interpreted as a matter of fact as applied to the vehicle in question. Any comparison or reference point will be a vehicle of similar age and/or mileage.

Where a defect has been masked, and was one, which should have been apparent to an 'expert' motor dealer, then, if it is resold without the prospective purchaser being made aware of the defect, an offence of omission will have been committed.

The vehicle condition alert register will highlight this.

Vehicles, which have been the subject of insurance write offs as a result of an accident, are a particular problem. To describe such vehicles as not having been in an accident perhaps because of no entry on the HPI Register would lead to an offence.

It is deemed as a misrepresentation of goods.

If no description is applied, and nothing is said about the vehicles previous history and you were unaware of that history, then no offence would be committed.

If however you knew of the previous history and chose to say nothing, an offence of omission is committed and it could be a matter that the Director General of Fair Trading would consider in respect to unfair business practices when deciding whether or not you are a fit person to hold or continue to hold a Consumer Credit Licence.

Vehicles damaged in an accident, not resulting in a total loss must have their details passed on to prospective purchasers despite the damage having been repaired to a satisfactory and acceptable level.

The difference between the two situations as you are probably aware is that as soon as a car is registered on the V car Register, the value depreciates.

Naturally you cannot describe the vehicle as never having substantial accident damage if it has.

Most vehicles have paintwork repairs carried out during their lifetime but it is only if substantial work has been carried out and the customer's decision may be affected that it becomes an offence not to disclose the information.

Published: 16 Mar 2011

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