Buyers may be entitled to huge compensation payouts if they bought an ex-rental car from dealers without warning, according to lawyers.
Damages could total between 25 and 100 per cent of the car’s value for misleading adverts.
Cars are often advertised as having one previous owner but have actually been thrashed by rental companies or fleets.
And a recent ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) now means owners have a “viable case” against used-approved dealers, according to a leading law firm.
If salesman failed to tell the buyer a car was once used by rental companies or for business use, they should be able to claim.
The ‘used car scandal’ explained
A vehicle’s history is displayed on the V5C document and will list how many previous owners it has had.
You can check a car’s past before you buy it and it’s always wise to check that it hasn’t been written off or has outstanding finance against it.
But even if you do that, you could still be misled into thinking the car has one owner – when in fact it’s been used heavily as a rental or fleet motor.
Dealers must now flag this up to buyers in adverts rather than only disclosing the info if they’re asked.
Brits who bought cars only to find out about the ex-fleet history could be entitled to refunds of between 25 and 100 per cent.
Omitting key details breaks the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008) and the amount due depends on how serious the case is and how much it influenced the purchase decision.
Damon Parker, head of litigation at Harcus Sinclair, said: “The ruling confirms our position that this is a viable claim for people who find themselves misled by dealers.
“It’s difficult to put a number on how many people have been affected by this, so we will have to look on a case-by-case basis.”
The ASA ruling was made after leading car magazine Auto Express took on the case of a reader who complained about two Alfa Romeo adverts.
They were advertised as having one previous owner, but it was later discovered both were ex-fleet vehicles.
The ASA ruled: “If a dealer knew that a vehicle was ex-fleet because it had previously been used for business purposes, then that was material information likely to influence a customer’s transactional decision.”
It’s prompted Alfa’s parent company Fiat Chrysler to alter its online system to flag the proper history – and the rest of the industry is playing catch up.
An ASA spokesman said: “We are telling advertisers that they must include information that they do not currently always include: specifically, if a car is ex-fleet or ex-hire or similar.