Press release

New approach to give second-hand car buyers a better deal

Proposals to tackle problems within the used car industry and give consumers greater protection have been backed by Consumer Affairs.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Proposals to tackle problems within the used car industry and give consumers greater protection have been backed by Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson today (25 October 2014).

The Used Car Commission, launched by the minister last November (2013), has explored problems reported by consumers about the sector, which is valued at £38 billion with 7.1 million sales a year in the UK.

Whilst the commission found that the industry generally works well for consumers, it has identified some areas for improvement. In response, the minister has today called on the commission to take forward its proposals to get a better deal for consumers.

The commission will now implement proposals including:

  • closer cooperation between the Police and Trading Standards to target organised criminals who steal vehicles for export, clone them or break them up for parts
  • the development of a minimum set of requirements for used car codes and trader approval schemes to ensure consumers are better protected and improve customer services
  • a focus on information gathering on used cars so current and emerging issues can be quickly identified and acted on by police forces and Trading Standards

Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said:

Whilst the majority of second-hand car buyers will have a trouble free experience, too many consumers are left with unresolved issues or thousands of pounds out of pocket.

The AA estimates that 750,000 consumers a year face unresolved problems with a used car purchase, so it is clear why the Commission’s work is so important.

The recommendations are an excellent starting point and it is good to see the sector working together to get the best possible outcomes for consumers. I am grateful to all the members of the Commission for their work so far.

The Trading Standards Institute’s chief executive Leon Livermore said:

The Used Car Commission identified the need to improve the landscape for buyers of second-hand cars and honest businesses, and put forward a number of recommendations to this end to the Consumer Affairs Minister.

We are pleased to see the minister shares our vision and we look forward to meeting with her officials to agree on how we take these recommendations forward.

AA research estimates that around 210,000 vehicles sold per year have a major fault and dealers can be unhelpful in resolving the problem. Around 18,000 vehicles are estimated to be sold a year where the buyer later finds that the car has been “clocked” - an illegal practice where miles are taken off the odometer so that it looks as though a car has been driven far fewer miles than it has in reality. This practice can add hundreds of pounds to the value of a car.

Complaints about second-hand cars are one of the biggest issues people take to the Citizens Advice consumer service. From April 2013 to March 2014, Citizens Advice dealt with 69,342 enquiries relating to second-hand cars.

Launched last November during National Consumer Week 2013, the Commission brought together the expertise of representatives from consumer groups, motoring organisations, regulators and the industry trade association.

This year, National Consumer Week 2014 will run from 3 to 7 November and will focus on Door Step crime with the theme ‘Good Neighbours Stop Rogue Traders’.

Notes to editors:

  1. The scope of the commission covers the sale of used cars from the motor industry to consumers in the UK and Northern Ireland. The Commission did not cover:
    • the sale of new cars
    • private sale of second-hand cars
    • intermediaries
  2. The members of the Commission are:
    • Leon Livermore, Chief Executive - Trading Standards Institute
    • Chris Warner, Lead Lawyer, Policy - Advocacy and Enforcement Which?
    • Adrian Harvey, Head of Policy - Citizens Advice
    • Neil Coltart - Society of Chief Trading Standards in Scotland
    • Ken Yorston - Welsh Heads of Trading Standards
    • David Livingstone - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Northern Ireland
    • Lord Harris of Haringey, Chairman - National Trading Standards Board
    • Edmund King, President - The Automobile Association
    • David Bizley, Technical Director - RAC
    • Stuart James, Independent Garages Director - Retail Motor Industry Federation
    • Sue Robinson, Director - National Franchised Dealers Association
    • Chris Mason, Chief Executive - Motor Codes Limited
    • Konstanze Scharring, Director of Policy - Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
    • Gerry Taylor, Joint Lead Officer, Motor Trade - Trading Standards Institute
    • Nick Dawes, Joint Lead Officer, Motor Trade - Trading Standards Institute
    • Peter Stratton, Joint Lead Officer, Motor Trade - Trading Standards Institute
    • Tim Milson, Joint Lead Officer, Motor Trade - Trading Standards Institute
  3. Anyone who believes that they have been the victim of a rogue trader should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or visit their AdviceGuide website for more information.
Published 25 October 2014