Check every used car’s history, says HPI

HPI is urging used car dealers to make vehicle history checks standard on all stock, regardless of the vehicle’s age, after a Trading Standards investigation led to a trader from Wales being successfully prosecuted for unwittingly selling on a car with outstanding finance against it. With as many as 1 in 4 cars hitting the HPI outstanding finance register, the risk to dealers of damaging their reputation and facing judicial punishment is painfully high.

Although the dealer is known to regularly conduct HPI Checks, he admitted that he didn’t on all stock, particularly older vehicles, as was the case of the 55-reg Citroen C3 he sold on. This mistake cost him and his two colleagues involved a total of £1,700 in fines, legal costs and victim surcharges, under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Neil Hodson, deputy managing director for cap HPI, explains, “We’re often hearing about dealers being found guilty in a court of law for selling on clocked cars, be that intentionally or otherwise, but this case concerns outstanding finance which is actually rather rare. Dealers should treat this recent prosecution as a stark warning, given a quarter of cars checked with us are on outstanding finance.”

There are basic but crucial steps dealers can take to validate a vehicle’s provenance. Only ever buy from the registered keeper and ask the customer for photo ID. Payment for the car must be made into a bank account in the registered keeper’s name. If the car has just changed hands then it’s even more important to verify who is selling it and that their ID checks out. However, the only real safeguard dealers have against putting their reputation and their business at risk, is to conduct an HPI Check. HPI holds details of over 8 million live finance interests, which represents in excess of 98 per cent of the UK’s motor finance market, making the HPI Check one of strongest defences against finance fraud.

Tim Milsom, a motor trade lead officer for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: “Traders need to follow strict due-diligence protocols before offering vehicles for sale or even accepting them in part exchange. This should not only include physical checks on the vehicle to ensure it is safe and roadworthy, but office checks too.

“Traders must know about several issues including outstanding finance, provenance, DVSA safety recalls, mileage validation, service history, MOT status, as well as accident and cam belt histories. They should then share relevant information with potential buyers.”

Neil Hodson concludes, “Dealers, just as private buyers, stand to lose the car and the money they paid for it if it later turns out to have finance against it; the finance house, who holds legal title to it, has every right to reclaim the car. However, if a dealer has conducted an HPI Check we will not only negotiate with the finance house on their behalf to resolve the matter, they may be protected by the HPI data warranty which offers up to £30,000 compensation.”

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