4,000 Scots ripped off with second-hand cars in a year

Being ripped off by a nefarious used car salesman is an age-old cliché but figures published today suggest thousands of people in Scotland are still having problems with cars they have bought second-hand.

Used cars, fuel bills and debt all cause concern. Photograph: Kobal
Used cars, fuel bills and debt all cause concern. Photograph: Kobal

More than 4,000 people contacted Citizens Advice Scotland over a 12-month period about issues relating to used cars they have bought – the top type of complaint received by the organisation’s telephone helpline – a new report shows.

The vast majority – 3,095 – had problems with a car bought from an independent second-hand car dealership. The rest raised issues related to franchise dealerships. The figure is slightly up on the previous year.

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Meanwhile, the Consumer Snapshot report revealed that Scots are more likely to seek help over concerns about domestic fuel bills than householders in England, while problems relating to betting, competitions and prize draws are also more common north of the Border than south.

Between April 2014 and March last year, Citizens Advice bureaux and its helpline dealt with 403,605 consumer issues in Scotland, with debt and housing arrears the most common problems. Debt was the biggest issue handled by face to face advisers.

Complaints connected to parking rocketed by almost half, while problems surrounding death and bereavement, such as paying for funerals, rose by 20 per cent, which Citizens Advice Scotland said was thought to be due to campaigns it had run.

In 2014, the service launched a campaign, ‘It’s Not Fine’, to highlight that people unfairly charged by private car parks can challenge the fine. It also published reports on the soaring costs of funerals.

“Rises in the number of cases seen relating to car parking and death and bereavement can be at least partly explained by the public awareness brought to these issues as a result of our campaigning efforts on unfair parking charges and funeral poverty,” it said.

Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said the organisation was this week launching a code of conduct for members ensuring that their customers have access to external dispute resolution.

He said: “Too often, something that is a small niggle escalates to a complaint because it is not handled properly at the source.

“That is something that we hope all of our members will remember. There are undoubtedly some people who should not be in the industry, although I would hope they are not members of the SMTA.

“There is an old adage that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is and consumers should probably pay attention to that.”