motor trader fined: cut price deals were a trick

PUBLISHED: 10:02 29 August 2009 | UPDATED: 00:04 16 June 2010

An East Devon motor trader and his company have been fined and ordered to pay costs totalling £18,296 for tricking customers to the forecourt with cut price internet adverts.

An East Devon motor trader and his company have been fined and ordered to pay costs totalling £18,296 for tricking customers to the forecourt with cut price internet adverts.

Exeter Crown Court heard that cars for sale through Devon Trade Centre at Axminster were priced lower on the internet and did not include a £249 administration fee.

Recorder John Williams said it was a case of 'sharp practice' where customers were duped by the lower internet price.

Prosecutor David Sapiecha said of the 88 cars in stock 41 of the vehicles had a substantially higher price on the forecourt than the figures displayed on the website. The average was around £500 to which had to be added the £249 administration fee.

The prosecutor claimed customers were 'reeled in' to the premises by the lure of the internet display price. It was only then they found out the cars would cost more and they would have to pay the administration fee.

He said the practice continued even after trading standards officers had visited the business which was run and owned by Mark Hiscox trading as Candlemine Shute Ltd. The officers said the practice would have to cease but it carried on for several months after that. It was complaints from members of the public that led to the officers carrying out an undercover Sting operation where they visited the site pretending to be customers. The charges arose out of what they were told and overheard while at Devon Trade Centre.

On behalf of Candlemine Shute, Lee Bremridge said the company agreed that what they had done as unacceptable, underhand and confusing. But no one was misled into handing over money without knowing what the final price was. As a result of the court case a member of staff had now been put in place to monitor the situation so it did not happen again.

As far as the company was concerned Mr Bremridge said it had a trading loss in 2008 of £59,000, had an overdraft of £39,000 and owed £190,000 in stock purchased but not yet paid for.

For Hiscox, Gareth Evans said his client had remortgaged his home to the tune of £460,000 and was using the money to prop up the ailing company. The business employed 16 people full time and he only drew £5,000 in wages for himself.

Candlemine and 48 year old Hiscox of Southleigh, Colyton admitted a total of eight charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations of 2008.

Imposing the fines and costs Recorder Williams said: "The lower internet price enticed customers onto the forecourt. This deceived members of the public as to the actual price and it did not include the administration fee. It is a case of the vulnerable and not so worldly wise being tricked."

The fines totalled £12,000 and the costs £6,296. The company was fined £8,000 and Hiscox £4,000 with each paying half the costs.


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