Online car dealer rapped on prices

Online dealer Webuyanycar.com has been rapped by the consumer watchdog over concerns that it misled customers by valuing their vehicles at a higher price than it eventually paid.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has taken enforcement action against the group after finding nearly 96% of people who sold their car through the website received less for their vehicle than the initial valuation suggested, with some prices being knocked down by hundreds of pounds.



Customers were given the impression that they would be paid the online valuation price as long as their car matched the condition they had claimed, but other factors - including market conditions - were found to lead to a reduction in the money they received.



The OFT also found that the Rochdale-based firm's vehicle inspectors were sometimes given targets to reduce the valuation by as much as 25%.



The OFT was concerned that once customers had driven their car to the company's premises, they might accept a reduced valuation even if they were unhappy with it because of the time and expense they had already incurred or because they needed a quick sale due to personal circumstances.



The car dealer gave sellers the impression that the online valuation they received was only valid for seven days, which encouraged people to make an appointment quickly, it added.



The OFT findings come after it analysed data provided by the company for the year to June 30 2010.



Webuyanycar.com, which claims to be the UK's largest buyer of second-hand cars and is known for its TV adverts, said it had made changes over the past year to improve its customer service.



It has signed a series of undertakings with the OFT to improve the way it treats customers.



The group has changed its website to make it more clear to consumers that they might not receive the initial valuation price.



It has also agreed it will not set targets for vehicle inspectors which could encourage them to reduce the valuation and agreed not to deduct any road tax refund due on the car from the final price.



And it told the OFT it would also make it clear to customers that its next working day payment service, which includes a charge of £24.75, is optional.



Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT's consumer group, said: "Selling personal possessions through the internet is increasingly popular, especially in these tough economic times.



"But it's important that the headline figure isn't chipped away at by the buyer, because it makes it very difficult for consumers to shop around and find the best deal."



Richard Harrison, chief operating officer of Webuyanycar.com, said the the OFT findings did not reflect current practice.



He added: "In the early days, we were operating a new business and defining a new market sector and we didn't get it right for every single customer. This was a long time ago and isn't reflective of the business we are today."



The company has launched a new website with clearer explanations about its service and the choice of a more in-depth and accurate valuation, he said.



It is also investing £300,000 in a new Buyer Training Academy to make sure its staff can accurately assess the valuation of a vehicle and its customers experience consistent service at every branch.



Webuyanycar.com purchases thousands of cars every month and receives complaints from an average of just 0.2% of customers, Mr Harrison said.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: C# Developer - Kent - £43,000

    £35000 - £43000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: C# and .Net Developer - n...

    Guru Careers: Digital Marketing Exec / Online Marketing Executive

    £35 - 40k: Guru Careers: Our client has a new role for a Digital Marketing Exe...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'