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Dublin, 26th May 2015 – The European Consumer Centre in Ireland (ECC Ireland) is issuing an advisory for consumers on car purchase. As sales of new and second-hand cars continue to rise, it is predicted that up to 125,000 new cars may be bought in Ireland in 2015. As consumers often look overseas for bargains when making big purchases, we are advising consumers to be aware of their rights and what to look out for when purchasing new or second hand cars.

A car is one of the most significant purchases made by consumers. For this reason, it is advisable to research the purchase in advance and to budget carefully. Consumer legislation provides a number of safeguards for those buying a car, though it is important to note that this legislation will not apply where the car is purchased from a private individual.

 

Before purchase

  • Where possible, it is highly advisable to inspect the vehicle first. It is also strongly recommended to consider carrying out a history check on the vehicle. Such checks can turn up information on any outstanding finance and verify the vehicle history, though it may entail a fee.
  • Consumer legislation only covers transactions between a business and a consumer. Accordingly, if you buy from a private individual, the purchase will not be covered.
  • If buying from abroad, ensure to budget for additional costs such as VRT and transportation (to collect/inspect the vehicle). It is also advisable to do some research on the seller – for example, check for membership of an accredited industry association.
  • Get any details or representations about the car in writing from the seller. If a dispute subsequently arises, verbal representations will be difficult to prove.

 

After purchase

  • By law, the car should be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and correspond to any descriptions held out by the seller. This applies equally to new and second-hand vehicles. Second-hand vehicles may not be entirely free from fault but they must nevertheless be in good condition (taking into account their age and price), fit for use on the road and ultimately safe and reliable.
  • Under national and UK law, consumers have up to six years to bring a claim against the seller for any problems with the vehicle. However, it is important to remember that this is not a guarantee period and that if the problem arises more than six months after purchase, the consumer may have to produce evidence that any faults/damage were not the result of misuse.
  • Remember that seller warranties or guarantees exist in addition to the consumer’s statutory rights and do not replace them. If buying a car in another Member State, be sure to check the scope of the manufacturer’s warranty as most do not operate uniformly across Europe.

 

Scams

Car purchase scams remain a persistent problem for consumers. In 2014, such scams accounted for 14% of all car purchase queries to ECC Ireland. Consumers should watch out for the following, which can be potential red flags:

  • Seeking payment by money/bank transfer. Fraudsters may ask consumers to send payment by bank transfer or via money wiring services, only for the seller and vehicle to disappear once the money is sent. This is particularly commonplace in internet transactions (e.g. where the vehicle is advertised for sale on a marketplace website). Consumers should be very cautious when sending payment in this manner as the funds cannot be traced once they have reached the recipient. Where possible, it is advisable to pay using a secure method of payment such as a credit card. It is not recommended to hand over large sums of money for a vehicle you have not yet seen.
  • Escrow/delivery companies. Consumers may be asked to send payment to an intermediary, such as an escrow company, who will then deliver the car to them. Consumers are often told that they will not have to pay if they are not happy with the vehicle. Unfortunately, in many cases, the intermediary disappears once the money has been sent. It is not uncommon for disreputable sellers to purport to be the intermediary – they may provide separate contact/website details, but ultimately turn out to be the same person or persons.

 

Consumers concerned that they may have been the victim of a scam should report it to Gardaí as soon as possible. If the ad was posted on a marketplace or auction website, you may also wish to report it to the website in case it can provide further assistance.

More information is available in ECC Ireland’s guide to buying a car.

 

For further advice and assistance, contact ECC Ireland on (01) 8797 620.

For media queries, please contact Grace Duffy on (01) 8797 641 or at gduffy@eccireland.ie.

ECC Ireland can also be found on Twitter @eccireland.