No doubt there will be plenty of happy faces sitting around the Christmas dinner table that seats the Trading Standards team of Middlesbrough Council this year. For we very much suspect that they will be unable to contain their excitement over the fact that a court has fined a car dealer £134,000 – because they failed to advertise that the “one former keeper” (or variations of it) happened to be a lease company.
They were prosecuted under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The Judge stated that “In my view an average consumer would be misled by such a description if applied to an ex-hire company vehicle without further clarification. I therefore find that the identity of the one registered keeper as a car rental business is information the average consumer needs.”
The fine imposed was such because the group were found guilty two years ago for the same issue. On that occasion they were fined £4000.
This case highlights why it is vital to advertise any matters concerning a car that might impact on the decision of the average consumer to buy it. The courts are clearly establishing that whilst factually correct, statements such as in this case, are misleading and punishable.
So, if you can see from the V5 document or if you know from where you sourced a car from, that it has been used previously as a hire car, lease car, taxi, driving instructor vehicle or similar, then you MUST say so in the ADVERT of the vehicle, whether it be advertised online or in the windscreen at point of sale.
In this particular instance the would-be consumer did not even buy the car. He saw from the V5 that the previous owner was a leasing company (very obviously named as such) and decided not to continue. He reported the matter to Trading Standards because he felt the garage had wasted his time.
Of course, it must be remembered that this was the second occasion within 18 months that this mis-advertising had been brought before the court.
The argument for such a hefty sanction is based both on that fact and the fact that the only way to deter repeat offending is to give a penalty that acts as a true deterrent. For example, a court won’t fine a Premier League footballer £100 for a minor motoring offence in the same way that they might if you or I had done the same thing. But £134,000 does seem rather excessive – no matter how much money you have in the bank – given the actual “offence”.
We gather they intend to appeal. We wish them well.
Lawgistics often get involved in assisting clients who are being pestered by Trading Standards and, where appropriate, we will even sit in on the formal interviews under caution. The earlier you get us involved the better