OFT raps knuckles of car supermarket Carcraft
The Office of Fair Trading has taken enforcement action against car supermarket Carcraft over the way it sells cars.
The OFT was concerned about the group's practices when selling vehicles, finance and after-sale guarantees. Carcraft currently operates 11 car supermarkets across England and Wales.
Following its investigation, the OFT said Carcraft was not always properly carrying out pre-sale inspections, as it had advertised. Customers often complained vehicles suffered problems shortly after purchase.
They believed the firm did not always meet its legal obligations to repair or replace cars when those that were sold were not of satisfactory quality either.
The OFT statement said: "Carcraft did not make clear to some customers the terms of motor finance, such as the level of repayments or that they were signing more than one finance agreement.
"It gave some customers a misleading impression about the scope of the after-sale vehicle guarantee, or that the guarantee was free when in fact it was being charged for and allowed some customers to drive vehicles off its premises without valid road tax."
The OFT said Carcraft fully cooperated with the investigation and said it believed "its business practices complied with the law".
Carcraft has now made changes and given undertakings about its future conduct, which address the OFT's concerns.
Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT's goods and consumer group, added: "Carcraft promised customers that it aimed to help them 'find the perfect car with confidence', but we don't think its practices ensured that it always lived up to expectations or met its legal obligations. We welcome Carcraft's undertakings which should ensure customers are treated fairly.
"The industry should take note of our action against Carcraft as it shows that dealers will face enforcement action where their practices cause serious problems for consumers."
The industry is currently working towards a voluntary code of practice for used car dealers and its director Chris Mason believes this case highlights the need for such an initiative.
He said: "There's an obvious need to provide consumers with clear guidelines, advice and information on customer service level expectations when buying used cars. We're happy to work with the OFT on campaigns that help the consumer find responsible businesses."
Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders chief executive, Paul Everitt, added: "Whether motorists are buying a new or used car, a price cannot be put on the importance of trust, reassurance and accurate advice.
"Backed by Industry Codes of Practice, the franchised dealer network offers this peace of mind to buyers along with the benefit of a comprehensive aftersales service."
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