Luxury used car firm fined after conviction for misleading customers
PUBLISHED: 09:54 03 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:54 03 November 2019
An Essex car dealership has been hit with a bill for almost £65,000 for misleading consumers.
Saxton 4x4 Ltd was fined £27,375 and ordered to pay costs of £37,375 following a crown court trial.
The prosecution was brought as a result of a Trading Standards probe into complaints about the sale and description of a vehicle by Saxton 4x4, of Westway, Chelmsford, on more than one occasion over 2017 and 2018.
During the trial, prosecutor Alison Lambert said it had been sold first as a 2015 vehicle.
When the customer discovered from the main dealer that it had been first registered in Germany in 2011, he informed the business and was refunded.
The vehicle went on to be sold on two further occasions - and a non-returnable deposit placed by another potential customer based on an inaccurate description.
Essex Trading Standards said the business was informed of the problems with the age description each time - but failed to modify adverts or sales communications to reflect the real age or inform subsequent purchasers.
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In total, seven charges were brought against Saxton 4x4 and seven against managing director Alwyn (Alan) Austin - all relating to misleading consumers.
The jury found the company guilty on six charges and not guilty on one charge relating to a single customer.
Mr Austin was found not guilty in his capacity as a director on seven charges.
Judge Jonathan Seely, who also awarded three victims compensation at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday, said there were "elements of deliberate mis-selling" and a number of "very poor business practices" relating to the sale.
The company argued it never received four recorded letters highlighting the true date of first registration - a claim Judge Seely labelled "wholly implausible".
Essex Trading Standards brought the prosecution under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Susan Barker, the county's customer, communities, culture and corporate chief, said: "The purchase of car is often the second largest financial decision that a consumer makes. They need to feel confident that they can rely on information provided.
"Essex County Council Trading Standards has an ongoing commitment to protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for businesses."