Office of Fair Trading
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Used cars top complaints to OFT

Used cars continue to top the number of complaints to the OFT, new figures released recently reveal.

Nationally over 56,000 people have complained to the OFT-managed Consumer Direct in the year to date.

The new statistics have been published by the OFT as it launches a Know Your Consumer Rights campaign to warn people about problems they may encounter when buying a used car.

As part of the campaign, the OFT has produced a short online film to inform people about their basic rights when buying a used car, and what to do if they encounter problems after purchase.  It is also working with local trading standards and the motor industry to make information on consumer rights more readily available.

Today's figures show that:

  • More than 70 per cent of the complaints were about faults with the cars.
  • Over 13 per cent were about misleading claims or omissions by the seller.
  • Nearly seven per cent were about substandard services.

An OFT study published last year found that consumers are left out of pocket by an average of £425 each, or £85 million per year in total, because they have to fix unresolved faults that are the dealers' obligation to correct.

Michele Shambrook from Consumer Direct said:

'We continue to receive a high number of complaints which are often due to some traders refusing to deal with legitimate complaints or provide appropriate compensation.

'We want to help people understand their rights when buying a used car from a dealer and we are working with the industry and local authority trading standards to get this message across.

'Dealers who fail to treat customers fairly or sell cars that are defective could face enforcement action.'

The OFT's advice to people buying used cars from dealers include:

  • Before you buy, ask the dealer the right questions such as what mechanical, history or mileage checks have they done?
  • Any car that you buy from a dealer should be:

    - of satisfactory quality
    - fit for purpose
    - and as described.

    If it isn't, the item is faulty.
  • If you discover that the car is faulty, go back to the trader as soon as possible. If they are unable to help you, contact Consumer Direct on 0845 040506. 
  • Warranties are an additional benefit and do not replace your rights.
  • Cheaper cars might be available from auctions or private sellers but consumers have fewer rights.
  • Information and advice on buying used cars is available at

The OFT has taken enforcement action against Carcraft, which has 11 car supermarkets across England and Wales, over concerns about its business practices when selling cars, finance and after-sale guarantees.


  1. The statistics are for calls received by Consumer Direct between 1 January 2011 and 29 September 2011. 
  2. The campaign is being supported by organisations from across the motoring industry. The OFT is working with local authority trading standards across the UK who are helping to publicise the campaign.
  3. The campaign will work alongside the OFT's consumer education programme Skilled to Go, guidance supplied to dealers, and enforcement practices to help make the market work better for consumers.
  4. See press release regarding enforcement action against Carcraft: OFT takes action against used car supermarket over sales practices (9 November 2011).

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