What car dealers can and cannot do when selling pre-owned vehicles

If a car dealer sells you a car on the basis of a false statement it can make the transaction unfair and unenforceable.

The Consumer Protection Act is very clear about what a car dealer can and cannot do when he sells you a pre-owned car. Your consumer rights when you buy a pre-owned car include being informed of all the possible defects, as well as whether it has been damaged in an accident.

Section 41 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is important when you buy a pre-owned car.

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It deals with false, misleading or deceptive representations and stipulates that a car dealer or a representative of the dealer is not allowed to:

  • directly or indirectly make a false, misleading or deceptive statement about an important fact to the consumer;
  • use exaggeration, invention or a statement with more than one meaning about an important fact;
  • fail to tell the consumer about an important fact, if failing to do so amounts to deception (such as not telling you that the car was involved in an accident); or
  • fail to correct the consumer when it is clear that you are under an impression that could be false, misleading or deceptive.

A representative of the car dealer is also not allowed to falsely claim or leave the consumer under the impression that the supplier has any sponsorship, approval or affiliation that he does not have or that any goods or services:

  • have ingredients, performance characteristics, accessories, uses, benefits, qualities, sponsorship or approval that they do not have;
  • are of a particular standard, quality grade, style or model if it is not true;
  • are new or unused if they are not or if they are reconditioned or reclaimed, except when they have been used only by or on behalf of the producer, importer, distributor or retailer for testing, service, preparation or delivery;
  • have not been used for a period of time if it is not true;
  • have been supplied on the basis of something the supplier told the consumer before the sale according to a previous representation; or
  • are available or can be delivered or performed within a specified time if it cannot be done.

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Car dealers are also not allowed to claim falsely that:

  • the necessary service, maintenance or repair facilities or parts are readily available for or within a reasonable period of time;
  • any service, part, replacement, maintenance or repair is needed or advisable;
  • a specific price advantage exists;
  • a charge or proposed charge is for a specific purpose;
  • an employee, salesperson, representative or agent has the necessary authority to negotiate the terms of or conclude an agreement;
  • the transaction affects or does not affect any rights, remedies or obligations of the consumer;
  • a particular invitation of or communication with the consumer is for a particular purpose; and
  • consumers will get a particular benefit if they assist the supplier in obtaining a new or potential customer.

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