The failure of motor traders (“traders”) to disclose all material information to consumers in relation to a motor vehicle’s roadworthiness and its complete history to include mileage has been identified by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (“CCPC”) as an enforcement priority.
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 (the “2007 Act”) prohibits traders from misleading consumers, for example in the sale of crashed and/or ‘clocked’ cars. The onus is on the trader to ensure that they have carried out the relevant checks into a vehicle’s history before selling the vehicle. The 2007 Act does not cover the sale of a car from a private seller.
The CCPC is now engaging in unannounced inspections of traders nationwide. The focus of the inspections is to identify and take enforcement action against those traders who are misleading consumers in the sale of crashed cars or who are engaging in advertising of false mileage of a car.
Isolde Goggin, Chairperson of the CCPC said … “Traders who sell cars to consumers are responsible for any false or misleading information they provide, and in this regard, traders should take note that if they mislead consumers about the vehicles they are selling or if they sell defective vehicles, they are breaking the law.”
The CCPC has a number of enforcement measures open to it:
- Compliance Notice – an Authorised Officer may issue a Compliance Notice to a trader who is deemed to have committed a ‘prohibited practice’. A Compliance Notice is a written notice directing them to remedy the relevant contravention of consumer protection legislation. The trader has the right to appeal the notice to the District Court within 14 days;
- Undertaking – if the CCPC has reason to believe that a trader is involved in a prohibited act or practice, they may seek and obtain a written undertaking that the trader will comply with the requirements of the 2007 Act.
- Prohibition Order – under Section 71 of the 2007 Act, any person, including the CCPC, can apply to the Circuit or the High Court for an order prohibiting a trader from committing or engaging in a prohibited act or practice;
- Prosecution – prosecuting a trader who has broken the law is the ultimate tool available to the CCPC. Fines and penalties for prosecutions under the various pieces of legislation that the CCPC has responsibility for, an example being the Consumer Rights Directive, can be significant and convicted persons can also be liable for the CCPC’s costs in any action taken.
In February 2017, the CCPC investigated and prosecuted a trader following a complaint received by them from a consumer. The trader was sentenced to three months imprisonment for providing the consumer with false information in relation to the mileage of a car. This prosecution marks the first time that a custodial sentence has been handed down for breach of the 2007 Act, arising from an investigation by the CCPC.
Further information can be found here.