Consumer Rights: Help me get my money from a dodgy dealer

A motor trader refuses to return a reader's deposit after failing to produce the correct document / Redundancy fears stalk the land despite 'green shoots'


I liked the look of a Toyota Yaris advertised on a car trade website and called the dealer to enquire. I was told the car was there and to come to the showroom to see it.

When I got there, he told me he didn't have that particular car or any of the others advertised. However, there was a Nissan Micra for £3,000 which I was told had done 40,000 miles and had one owner. I test drove it and it seemed fine but I made it clear I would only buy it if I had all the paperwork.

I was told it would all be available when I came to pick the car up. I had to put down a £250 deposit which I was told would be refunded if all was not in order. When I went to pick up the car, the paperwork was incomplete. I was told I'd get the documents "in a few weeks". I wasn't happy and decided not to go ahead.

The dealer refused to refund the £250 even though I hadn't signed anything. I would never buy this car or any other from this dealer now. I just want my deposit back. I've been advised to make a claim in the small claims court. Is this my only course of action? I paid the deposit by credit card.

PM

London

Having checked this firm's website there seems to be more than one dissatisfied customer leaving comments on there who'd like their deposits back and drastic punishment handed out to the dealer. The Office of Fair Trading has just launched a study into the sale of second-hand cars because of the large number of consumer complaints.

Rule one: check out the dealer before handing over any money. Always buy from a reputable dealer, and the best way to find one is usually to talk to trusted friends and relations about where they buy their goods or services. Check websites and message boards; check that dealers are members of a trade association; talk to local trading-standards departments and consumer-advice centres before you buy. They are usually aware of who's reputable and who isn't. However, you've probably worked all this out yourself with hindsight, which is an exact science. What to do now?

Go to your trading standards department (details through Consumer Direct at consumerdirect.gov.uk or on 08454 040506) and talk with someone there. Ask them to put pressure on the dealer to pay up. Consumer affairs expert Elizabeth Manford says: "He could be committing an offence by advertising something which was not available for sale. Trading-standards officers could investigate this as they can access his records. If you have the number plate for the original Toyota Yaris you saw advertised that will be useful information."

You paid your deposit by credit card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the card issuer is equally liable with the trader if something goes wrong. It has clearly gone wrong here so get in touch with your card company as soon as possible. If it refuses to get involved, and says that Section 75 doesn't apply, insist, and ask the trading standards officer to pursue it for you.

Ultimately, you may have no choice but to claim through the small claims court. You'll find all the information you need at http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/claims/ index.htm

But think carefully before you go down this route. If your dealer is "dodgy" there may be no money to repay you even if the court finds in your favour. You would then have to decide whether to pay out more to have the court judgment enforced. It could be a case of throwing good money after bad.

Ms Manford also says: "There is one other thing you must do. Contact the site that carried the advert from this dealer. They will want to know that he isn't giving you your rights when things go wrong."

***

I hoped the "green shoots" everyone's talking about meant I'd keep my job, but it now looks like some of us will be axed. I've been here for 18 years and am one of the longest employed. Everyone says I should find out how much redundancy money I'd get but I don't want to talk to the boss in case that prompts him to put me on his hit list. Can you tell me how much I should get?

RE

Plymouth

I need to know what your contract says about redundancy; how much you're paid per week and how old you are.

Your employer can pay you more redundancy money than he or she has to by law. If that's the case, the terms will be in your contract and your employer must stick to them. If there's nothing in the contract, you're entitled to the statutory amount. That depends on how long you've worked for the firm and how old you are. You've worked there for 18 years so, if, for example, you are 38, you'll be entitled to 17 weeks' pay; if you are 48, you'll be entitled to 21.5 weeks' pay; if you are 58, you'll be entitled to 26.5 weeks' pay. But a week's pay is limited to a maximum of £350. If you go to berr.gov.uk you'll find a ready reckoner and more information.

If your employer has no money, the Government will pay your redundancy. Again there's more information on the website. If you are made redundant straight away, you will be entitled to be paid instead of working your notice period. If you think you are unfairly selected for redundancy, you may be able to claim against your employer. I'd advise a trip to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau to check your entitlement and your rights. You'll find details in your phone book or at citizensadvice.org.uk. Take a copy of your contract with you.



Liz Barclay's new radio series, The Job Clinic, is on BBC Radio 4 at 11am on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week; moneyagonyaunt.com

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