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Issue Date:- 27 January 2009
dealers still taking customers for a ride
dealers’ taking us for a ride? The reputation for sharp practices
could be justified, says Which? – despite new regulations that are
designed to stamp out misleading sales tactics.
In October and November 2008, Which? mystery shoppers phoned and
then visited 26 franchised dealers in four regions across England,
following up on seven specific, advertised manufacturer offers for
new cars. This undercover investigation by the consumer organisation
found plenty of examples of poor, misleading or unclear advice. Of
the 26 enquiries Which? made, 12 car dealers made dubious or vague
claims, and four of these could have broken the new rules.
Some bad advice could be because dealers are ill-informed about
manufacturers’ offers. But Which? suspected some dealers of using “bait and switch” tactics; advertising a car, despite
knowing there’s no stock, with the aim of selling an alternative and
then “pressure selling”, such as implying a false
deadline for a discount offer or saying stocks are low.
One Peugeot dealer said on the phone he had a model that was
advertised on its website. Just an hour and a half later in the
showroom, the researcher was told the dealer didn’t have that model
and was shown a different car. This seems like an example of
“bait and switch”, but it is difficult to prove.
A Jeep dealer strongly suggested a special offer would finish at the
end of that month (October 2008), despite the Jeep website saying it
applied to any cars registered before 31 December 2008. The salesman
claimed “there’s only about 10 left in the country”,
although Which? found no apparent shortage from established online
David Evans Which? motoring expert is familiar with the workings of
car dealerships, as before joining Which?, he spent five years
working for franchised dealers. He also later spent 13 years working
for car manufacturers, including direct liaison with dealers, so
David also visited some of the showrooms.
He enquired after a Vauxhall Astra advertised on the dealer’s
website, and was asked to take a seat while a salesman
“checked stocks”. Without even disappearing from view, the
dealer walked into a small office, then came straight back out. He
then said he was sorry but that particular model was gone. He then
went into full sales mode, offering a used Astra, with several
thousand miles on the clock, for the same price.
David did have one positive experience out of four visits to car
salesmen; a Vauxhall Astra dealer who actually had the car in stock
that he claimed, but his overall impression was of “swimming
Which? is concerned that the new consumer protection rules can’t be
enforced effectively as it’s so difficult to determine what is an
unfair sales tactic and what is misguided advice.
Richard Headland, Editor, Which? Car, says:- “The ghost of
Arthur Daley’s alive and kicking, unfortunately. Dealers have had
ample time to get used to the new rules, but too many still let car
Our investigation was just a snapshot, but we still found several
examples of dubious sales advice. If dealers want to win the
confidence of consumers, especially in these tough times, they need
to play by the rules.”
Car buyers who believe a dealer has misled them should contact
Consumer Direct on 0845 404 0506.
Did you know?
31 practices have been outlawed
completely under the Consumer Protection (from Unfair Trading)
Regulations. It is now illegal, for example, for a retailer to
invite a prospective buyer to purchase at a specified price, without
telling the buyer if it may not be able to supply the goods
advertised. Making false claims has always been frowned upon, but
now it is against the law, as is omitting vital information the
consumer needs to make a purchasing decision. There are also legally
binding guidelines on other sales techniques. These aren’t banned
outright, but may be judged to be illegal if they mislead, are
unduly aggressive, or in some other way lead to a consumer making a
decision different to the one they would have made had they been
Which? is the leading independent consumer champion in the UK. We
provide impartial, expert information on products and services in
our magazines, books and online to help consumers make more informed
choices, and we campaign on issues that matter to all consumers,
from food to finances, health to estate agents. For more information
on how we can help you, visit:-
New minibus comes in
to land at local centre for disabled
A new adapted
minibus has made a happy landing at Vitalise Sandpipers in
Southport, thanks to a generous donation by the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new, specially adapted
vehicle took place at the well-known respite holiday centre for
disabled people and carers on Southport’s Marine Lake on Tuesday, 27
The ribbon was attended by Martin Henshaw, Regional Director of the
Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, which provided funding to purchase
and adapt the £44,000, state of the art 17 seater minibus. Also in
attendance was Vitalise Chief Executive Jonathan Powell and Centre
Manager Darren Holloran, together with staff, guests and volunteers
at the Centre.
Darren Holloran, Manager of Vitalise Sandpipers, said:- “We
are enormously grateful to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund for
their generous donation. Here at Vitalise we pride ourselves on
offering our disabled guests exactly the same choices as anyone else
would expect on a well-deserved holiday. This new minibus will
enable us to take our guests to tourist attractions and places of
interest around the region in comfort and safety.”
Vitalise Sandpipers provides essential breaks for disabled people
and carers from across the Northwest. The Centre offers 24 hour care
on-call with personal support and can cater for over 150 different
disabilities. Guests can choose from a wide range of activities and
excursions around the region, with nightly entertainment laid on.
Mandelson announces support package for the Automotive Industry
ON the 27
January 2009 the UK Government announced a package of measures aimed
at freeing up lending of more than £2bn for the automotive industry.
The automotive industry employs nearly one million people from
manufacturing to retailing and contributes £10bn added value to the
economy. It is a major contributor to research and development, and
supports a supply chain and technology benefits for the wider
manufacturing industry in the UK.
The elements of support that have been announced:-
► Guarantees to unlock loans of up to £1.3bn European Investment
Bank (EIB) guarantees for investment in lower carbon initiatives
► Loans or loan guarantees to support of up to £1bn of lending for
lower carbon initiatives for non-EIB backed projects
► Increased funding for training of employees under 'Train to
► Mervyn Davies, the new Trade and Investment Minister, tasked to
draw up a plan for improving access to finance for manufacturers'
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said:- "Britain needs an
economy with less financial engineering and more real engineering.
The car industry can and should be a vibrant part of that future.
The steps we are taking today will help companies speed their way to
becoming greener, more innovative and more productive. This is the
route to securing jobs for the long term as we build a more balanced
economy for Britain's future."
The measures include plans to agree a temporary framework with the
European Commission to provide loan guarantees to UK automotive
manufacturers and large UK automotive suppliers. These will be
targeted at initiatives to reduce emissions and energy consumption.
The Government has already taken a series of actions to unblock bank
lending to SME and mid-sized companies. This assistance will apply
to projects over £5m from UK based vehicle manufacturers and
automotive parts suppliers with an annual turnover of £25m or more.
Applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The
Government is committed to ensuring that anything backed by the
► Offers value for money to taxpayer;
► Enables us to green Britain's economic recovery
► Delivers significant innovation in processes or technologies for
► Supports jobs and skills in Britain
The scheme will help ensure that major new low-carbon investment
projects in the UK automotive sector are not abandoned or located
outside of the UK because companies are temporarily unable to access
sufficient funding from traditional sources of finance.
This announcement also includes a commitment from the Department of
Innovation, Universities and Skills that automotive employers will
be able to access high quality skills support, as well as funding to
help pay for training; through the Train to Gain service. If there
is the demand from the industry, the Department of Innovation,
Universities and Skills Secretary will boost the funding to support
new training to £100 million from its present £65 million. This
offers real help to people - including workers in SMEs in the
automotive supply chain.
The £50 million Economic Challenge Investment Fund being announced
separately today by the Higher Education Funding Council also
creates new opportunities for automotive employers looking to tap
into academic expertise in improving business performance.
This recognises the value of skills and knowledge that exists in the
auto industry and the need to develop Britain's capabilities in
efficient, low carbon processes and technologies.
The UK already has a lean, competitive and highly skilled
automotive workforce and this training funding will help keep the
workforce at the forefront of skills and innovation.
Peter Mandelson also invited Regional Development Agencies to work
with the Technology Strategy Board to bring forward a further step
change in programmes for research and development into cleaner
engines, lighter cars, plug-in hybrids and components for electric
vehicles, building on the £110 million of support for research and
development that was announced last September (2008).
1. The Framework, which is subject to
clearance by the European Commission, will be consistent with new
temporary State aid
measures announced by the Commission on 17 December 2008.
2. No date for the commencement of loans and loan guarantees under
the framework has yet been set since it is dependent on Commission
clearance, but we aim to start work with the Commission at once. In
bringing forward its temporary State aid procedures for helping
companies access finance, the Commission has made clear that it will
aim swiftly to process Member State applications.
3. UK-based manufacturers of construction equipment (such as diggers
and bulldozers) and suppliers that meet the criteria of the
framework will be eligible to apply.
4. The package of measures announced will enable lending of over
£2bn over the next two years.
5. The assessment criteria will be finalised when they are cleared
with the European Union, but are likely to include:-
a) Value for money to taxpayer
b) Compliance with State aid rules
c) Viability of companies
d) Tied to R&D or capital expenditure within the UK
e) Evidence of having exhausted private sector sources
f) Repayable within 2 years
g) Further UK objectives on low carbon/green technology
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