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Press releases 2010 -

OFT publishes new guidance for car dealers on legal obligations

looking at a second hand car

71/10    30 June 2010

The OFT has today published new guidance for second-hand car dealers setting out their legal obligations to customers under consumer protection laws.

Download the new guidance (pdf 174kb) and an accompanying checklist (pdf 1Mb).

The guidance has been issued following the publication in March of the OFT's market study into the £24 billion second-hand car market which found a number of problems in the sector. This study found that consumers lose an estimated £85 million per year in connection with fixing unresolved faults that are the dealer's obligation to correct, issues around illegal clocking, dealers pretending to be private sellers, the use of illegal disclaimers and failures to disclose sufficient information about vehicles prior to sale. See press release 27-10.

The new guidance and checklist is intended to help dealers comply with two important pieces of consumer protection legislation:

  • the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which ban unfair commercial practices towards consumers, and
  • the Sale of Goods Act 1979 which governs dealers' legal obligations to consumers with regard to the quality, fitness and description of the vehicle being sold, and consumers rights to redress when something goes wrong .

The checklist highlights some of the practical steps dealers should take to help ensure compliance including clear dos and don'ts relating to pre-sale history and mileage checks, checking the vehicle's mechanical condition, providing customers with important information before the sale and dealing with complaints and issues around faulty vehicles.

Heather Clayton, Senior Director of the OFT's Consumer Group, said:

'We hope that this guidance will improve business practices in the second-hand car market and lead to fewer complaints from consumers. Tackling unfair practices in the second-hand car market is an OFT enforcement priority, and we will continue to work with local authority Trading Standards to take action against dealers engaging in sharp practices.'


  1. The OFT market study into second-hand cars published in March 2010 is available on the second hand cars market study page. The market study was prompted by consistently high numbers of consumer complaints. 
  2. Between December 2009 and March 2010, the OFT conducted a public consultation on draft guidance for second-hand car dealers on compliance with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended). Download the consultation document (pdf 363kb) and the OFT's response to the consultation (pdf 348kb).
  3. UK consumers buy 3.6 million second-hand cars from car dealers a year, spending £24 billion. 
  4. In 2009, Consumer Direct, the OFT-managed advice service, received more than 65,000 complaints about second-hand cars purchased from dealers. Sales by independent dealers have historically been the largest source of complaint to Consumer Direct, topping the list of complaints for the past four years.

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