Used Car Dealers
Selling a used car in the UK is big business. In order to ensure fair and honest sales, second hand car dealers must comply with consumer protection law including the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations and the Sale of Goods Act. If a car is sold in breach of any relevant laws or regulations, a buyer can request a full refund as well as ask for an appropriate replacement or repairs to be undertaken.
The UK Used Car Market
In 2013, more than 6.8 million used cars were sold in the United Kingdom, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This compares to approximately 2.3 million new car registrations in 2013. The used car market value was £38.1 billion in 2012, according to the British Car Auctions (BCA) Used Car Report Market Report 2013. By comparison, the market value of new cars was £32.3 billion in 2012.
Consumer Protection Laws
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) regulates how second car dealers deal with consumers in fair and honest manner. Introduced in 2008, the CPRs established a general ban on unfair trading. The regulations apply to second hand car dealers and other traders whose business practices might affect consumers. A car dealer cannot mislead a consumer or behave aggressively or in an otherwise unfair manner towards them. If they do, they may face criminal or civil enforcement action. The CPRs apply to behaviour before and after a transaction is made between the dealer and a consumer, including failure to honour after-sales service promised in sales advertising.
The Sale of Goods Act, 1979, as amended, sets out legal obligations to consumers with respect to the quality of a used vehicle and the description a car dealer gives of the car. It also sets out a second hand car dealer's duties if something goes wrong with the vehicle. By law, used vehicles must be of satisfactory quality. They must also be fit for their purpose and match the description provided. A used car dealer must also have the legal right to sell the vehicle. A dealer is legally obligated to resolve any problems with respect to these issues. If they do not, a customer may take court action against a second hand car dealer for breach of contract and the dealer may face enforcement action. Failure to follow the Sales of Goods Act also constitutes a breach of the CPRs.
Additional legislation might also apply for second hand car sales. If a vehicle is sold on finance, consumer credit legislation applies including the Consumer Credit Act, 1974 and the Consumer Credit Directive. If a vehicle is sold at a distance such as through online sales, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 will also apply.
Selling a Second Hand Car
A second hand car must meet more than just basic safety and roadworthiness requirements outlined in the Road Traffic Act and the General Product Safety Regulations. The car may be deemed as not meeting quality requirements under the Sales of Goods Act even if it has a minor defect. A second hand car dealer is liable for any faults present at the time of the sale, whether or not the buyer noticed it when it was purchased unless it was brought to the buyer's attention or if it should have been noticed by a buyer who inspects the vehicle before purchasing it. However, a dealer is not liable for issues arising from wear and tear or if the fault arises from normal use. Dealers are also not liable for faults that are a result of misuse or accidental damage by the buyer.
A car dealer must also ensure that the vehicle is fit for use before selling it. The car should be of sufficient quality for the buyer to enjoy an appropriate level of comfort. It should also be easy to handle and reliable within reason. For example, if the vehicle has a track record for breaking down it is likely not fit for sale. The vehicle should also be fit for any purpose that the customer outlines when looking for a second hand car. For example, if the vehicle is meant to transport goods it should be capable of safely moving the indented items. The vehicle should also accurately fit its description in any advertisements or documents issued by the car dealer. Before selling a second hand car, a dealer should also ensure that they have the legal right to do so and that there are no outstanding finance agreements related to the vehicle.