Axminster car dealer sold unroadworthy vehicles

Court hears how one vehicle’s front brakes were “completely worn out”

AN AXMINSTER motor dealer has admitted eight charges connected to the supply of mis-described vehicles.

Two of them were found to be unroadworthy and one had front brakes that were ‘completely worn out’. A third had been mis-described as having travelled 30,000 miles when it had actually done in excess of 80,000 miles.

At Exeter Crown Court on Friday (April 15), company director Alex James Ward, 32, pleaded guilty to eight charges, five of which were on behalf of the Axminster based company, Candlemine Shute Ltd, trading as Devon Trade Centre.

The case was brought by Devon County Council’s Trading Standards Service after a long and detailed investigation under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The investigation was launched after Trading Standards received a number of complaints from customers.

In October 2009, a customer had purchased a Peugeot 306 from Devon Trade Centre after passing her driving test. The vehicle displayed a number of serious faults soon after purchase and was found to have excessively worn rear suspension that rendered the vehicle in a dangerous and unroadworthy state.

In a separate complaint made to Trading Standards, another customer had bought a VW Passat from the company after seeing a web advertisement in January 2010. The vehicle was described as having travelled 30,000 miles when in fact it had done in excess of 80,000 miles. The customer was informed by the salesman before the sale that the low mileage was as a result of the vehicle ‘being used by an elderly gentleman’. The vehicle had actually been owned by a 22-year-old man.

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The third vehicle at the centre of the investigation involved the sale of a Land Rover Freelander. The vehicle was bought by a couple after they saw it advertised as being four-wheel drive. The vehicle had also recently undergone an MOT test carried out by Devon Trade Centre. On the way home from collecting the vehicle, the couple noticed a grinding noise coming from the brakes and a number of other faults quickly became apparent. The vehicle was examined and found to have excessively worn brakes, and in addition, the prop shaft was missing, resulting in the vehicle only working in two-wheel drive. The vehicle was deemed to be in a dangerous and un-roadworthy state when sold to the couple. A preliminary search of the internet led the couple to discover a web review left by another customer who had viewed and almost purchased the same vehicle from Devon Trade Centre. It transpired that the company had been previously informed of the missing prop shaft following an AA ‘pre-purchase’ inspection that took place on the company’s forecourt. The couple made a complaint to Trading Standards following their discovery.

In all three cases the company failed to rectify the complaints made to them before Trading Standards became involved. The court also heard that in August 2009 the company was convicted of offences under the same legislation for using misleadingly low prices on vehicles offered for sale on its website and for failing to disclose the addition of an administration fee to customers. The Company has since given a court undertaking on the earlier matters under the Enterprise Act 2002. Mr Ward was not a Director of the Company when the previous offences took place.

The case was adjourned until the end of May for sentencing.