Warning to car buyers over clocked UK imports
Irish buyers of second-hand imports are being alerted to a new risk - cars that have been 'clocked' by their own drivers.
There has been a big increase in the UK of private motorists tampering with odometers so they are not penalised for exceeding agreed mileage limits on lease deals.
While the numbers of used imports are not as high as they were, we still bring thousands of second-hand vehicles into Ireland each month.
Up to now it was suspected that unscrupulous dealers were cheating potential buyers by reducing mileage readings.
However, vehicle history check company Cartell.ie is now warning potential buyers of the new threat from private motorists.
They are interfering with odometers because the real figures would mean having to pay possibly thousands of pounds extra in high-mileage penalties.
It can lead to Irish buyers paying for cars that have covered tens of thousands of miles more than the odometer is showing. And that has repercussions for wear-and-tear, safety, repairs and future value.
Leases and Personal Contract Plans (PCPs) have strict mileage agreements built in and monthly repayments are based on those figures. Every mile above an agreed maximum incurs a penalty that can quickly snowball into a significant sum.
Cartell.ie legal manager John Byrne told the Irish Independent: "Recent reports indicate clocking is on the rise in the UK and in a lot of cases it appears to be vehicle owners who are clocking their own vehicles.
"In a large number of cases this may be to avoid mileage penalties on fixed-mileage leases such as PCPs, which can be quite stringent," he added.
Potential buyers are being advised to be extremely wary and to always ask for MOT and service history information and have a vehicle history check before purchasing.
The practice of 'clocking' is now a criminal offence here.
Meanwhile, Dublin MEP Brian Hayes has urged the European Commission to introduce a mandatory code of conduct for car rental companies saying only nine companies have signed up to the current voluntary code.
"The code of conduct needs to be mandatory for all car rental companies operating within the EU. It is not good enough to have only a minority signed up to an agreement . . . One in three Irish people who travel abroad rent a car. At present consumers have very little protection when disputes arise."
He said he has received complaints from consumers about fuel surcharges, excess insurance and administration fees.
"The Commission needs to enforce a mandatory code of conduct on the industry given the failure of the industry to police itself," he said.