The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has taken enforcement action against Webuyanycar.com over concerns that online valuations given by the used car buying firm were misleading.
The OFT’s announcement comes five months after Which? Car carried out an investigation into Webuyanycar.com, comparing the prices it offered with those obtained by selling a car privately, as a trade-in or at auction.
We obtained online valuations for five cars, then took them to five different Webuyanycar.com depots – in every case the online valuation was slashed by the depot staff – more than £800 was taken off the purchase price of a Mercedes E-class.
Although our researchers were able to get the valuations increased somewhat by haggling, three felt they were subjected to ‘pressure buying’ tactics by depot staff.
96% received less than original website valuation
The investigation carried out by the OFT found that nearly 96% of customers who sold their car to Webuyanycar.com received less than the original website valuation, in some cases by hundreds of pounds.
Consumers were given the impression that they’d be paid the full online valuation if Webuyanycar.com’s on-site inspection matched the condition of the car entered by the seller onto the website.
However, some customers found that other factors reduced the original online valuation, including ‘market conditions’.
The OFT also discovered that vehicle inspectors were set targets regarding the purchase price of vehicles, sometimes to reduce the online valuation by as much as 25% when appraising the car.
What Webuyanycar.com has promised to change
According to the OFT, Webuyanycar.com fully co-operated with its investigation, and has signed an undertaking to do the following:
• Make clear that the website valuation is not a price at which the company is offering to buy the consumer’s car and that a range of other factors might be taken into account
• Not set targets for vehicle inspectors, which have the potential to encourage them to reduce the valuation offered for inappropriate reasons
• Not deduct from the final price the amount of any refund available to the customer from the DVLA for the road tax remaining on the car
• Make it clear to customers that the next working day payment service (which incurs an additional charge of £24.75) is optional
What Which? says
Following our own investigation last winter, Which? Car urged consumers to use Webuyanycar.com only as a last resort, suggesting that part-exchanging or even selling at auction could be more profitable.
Which Motoring Editor Richard Headland said: ‘Our investigation into Webuyanycar.com found that selling to this company could leave you seriously out of pocket.
‘In three out of five instances it gave us a below trade valuation for our cars, then tried to reduce these offers even further when we took the cars to their depots.
‘We think you should sell your car to this company only as a last resort.’
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