A Cookstown trader has been handed a two-month prison sentence - suspended for two years - and fined a total of £3,000 for selling a 'clocked' car and not declaring he was a trader.
Gerald Quinn of Molesworth Street, Cookstown bought the vehicle with mileage of around 145,000, before selling it on with 79,000 on the clock.
In a case brought by the Trading Standards Service of the Department for the Economy, Quinn pleaded guilty to charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and was found guilty of one charge under the Fraud Act 2006.
The investigation followed a complaint received from a consumer who purchased a Toyota Landcruiser from Quinn and subsequently discovered the vehicle had been "clocked".
An investigation by Trading Standards confirmed the vehicle had been sold to the consumer by Quinn with a mileage of 79,000 miles, but the vehicle had actually travelled at least 145,000 miles. It had been sold with the higher mileage directly to Quinn.
Quinn also pleaded guilty to charges relating to his attempts to disguise the fact that he was a trader.
In addition to the fine, the court ordered Quinn to pay a further £1,500 compensation on top of £2,000 he had already paid to the purchaser of the vehicle.
Julie Harrison of the Trading Standards Service said: "We want to make consumers aware that car clocking is still widespread in Northern Ireland and we would urge them to be vigilant when purchasing cars and to carry out their own checks before deciding to buy a car.
"There are several businesses that offer a service to check a vehicle’s history.
"Also, information can be obtained from MOT offices. We also want to make traders aware that it is their duty to describe vehicles accurately and to provide all the necessary information about a vehicle’s history that a consumer needs to know.
"Traders must also be honest about the fact that they are in trade and not try to pose as private individuals to side step their legal responsibilities. We will not hesitate to bring motor traders who 'clock' or who deal in 'clocked' vehicles before the courts."
Trading Standards offers the following advice when buying a car:
- Buy from a reputable dealer - vehicles may cost more when bought from a dealer but they have carried out checks on a vehicle's history before offering cars for sale.
- Bring someone with you that knows about cars. Excessive wear and tear on the driver’s seat, steering wheel and foot pedals may be inconsistent with the indicated mileage.
- Ensure you see all the relevant original paperwork, the logbook, the car's service history and MOT certificates. With this information, you can contact the previous owners of the vehicle as well as the garages that carried out the servicing work to ask questions about the history of the vehicle. Everything should be present and correct. If not, simply walk away from the deal.
- Carry out an online vehicle mileage and accident check before you buy the car.
- If you know the registration and chassis number of a vehicle, you can contact the Driver Vehicle Agency to enquire about the recorded mileage of the vehicle at previous MOT's. The chassis number is visible on the bottom left corner of most car windscreens.
- If buying from a 'private' seller, get proof of the seller's name and address.
- Finally, never buy a car from the side of a road and pay cash to somebody you don’t know.
If you think you have been sold a "clocked" vehicle, you should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.