A NUMBER of second-hand car dealers are facing prosecution over selling cars that have been 'clocked', the Irish Independent has learnt.
The action is being taken by the National Consumer Agency (NCA) amid growing concerns over the scale of the problem.
'Clocking' involves turning back the mileage displayed on the dashboard instrument. It is not illegal to 'clock', but it is an offence to mislead a buyer.
Five dealers face court action early in the new year.
The agency has received 80 complaints about clocked cars from buyers this year, but some auto experts believe the problem is far larger.
One company, which provides a database of car mileage, estimates that about 250,000 cars – 11pc of the total – on Irish roads are clocked.
The director of commercial practices at the NCA, John Shine, said: "It has never been easier to clock a car because it can now be done electronically. But at the same time it has never been easier to see if one has been clocked."
Mr Shine urged buyers to always seek assurances from garages that the mileage is correct and has not been altered.
"If you are buying privately then always ask about the car's history and its mileage.''
Jeff Ahern, managing director of Cartell.ie, a private company that can track a car's mileage and service history from a range of databases, has called on the Government to introduce a specific offence of clocking cars and thus make it easier to prosecute offenders.
Mr Ahern said that NCT 'clocking' findings should be passed on to owners.
"It is ludicrous to think that a car will come in for an NCT and an operator can see that the vehicle had a higher reading the last time around, which the new owner is unaware of, yet the operator is not in a position to tell him," he said.
"Clocking or changing the mileage of a vehicle to a lower one is a major road safety issue as it can lead to vehicle failure at inopportune times and may already have led to death and serious injury, not to mention the fraudulent and financial implications to those unfortunate enough to have bought one of these vehicles."
In a letter to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, Mr Ahern said most vehicle sales were private, over which the NCA has no remit.
He also complained that many unsafe cars which had been written off could not be held on a database for data protection reasons. This allows unscrupulous people to repair vehicles to a low standard and sell them on, he said.
"There is no doubt that people have been killed in the State due to written-off vehicles, stolen vehicles and unroadworthy vehicles."