Used car trader prosecuted for selling unsafe van with fake MOT

A used car trader has been prosecuted after selling an unsafe Ford Transit van to a Plymouth consumer.

The trader, currently living in Margate, was sentenced yesterday at Plymouth Crown Court after pleading guilty to two offences of making false representations regarding the description of the van, contrary to the Fraud Act 2006 and one offence of engaging in an unfair commercial practice, contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

An investigation by our Trading Standards team found the vehicle was sold with extensive corrosion and brake defects, as well as a doctored MOT certificate – despite the trader reassuring the buyer that the van had only a “few rusty bits but not bad” and “minimal rust” and that it had passed a new MOT test.

The court heard how the trader had advertised the van for sale on Gumtree at £995 including a new MOT, or £800 without (as the previous certificate had expired). A woman from Plymouth negotiated a price of £920, to include a new MOT.

When he delivered the van he handed the buyer a doctored MOT certificate suggesting it had passed. However, the MOT test had in fact been abandoned a few days earlier, due to obviously visible excessive corrosion.

An expert who examined the vehicle said that because of this extensive corrosion and brake defects it was dangerous to use.

The trader received a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and was ordered to pay £870 compensation and £5,000 in costs, together with a mandatory £140 victim surcharge.

In mitigation his barrister said he had deliberately cheated the buyer but at the time of the offence he was living a chaotic lifestyle. He also said he is now settled with a new job and partner.

In sentencing, Judge Darlow said the trader had sold a patently unroadworthy and dangerous vehicle in such a state that there was a substantial risk of collapse, as well as serious injury to the car user and other road users. He said he had produced a false MOT and had dodged and weaved when asked to return the money, telling lie after lie.

Councillor Dave Downie, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities, said: “Selling a van in this condition risked the lives of the purchaser and other road users and Trading Standards will always take robust action to protect the public. Car traders must take their responsibilities very seriously – especially when selling secondhand vehicles – and ensure they are roadworthy and safe before allowing a customer to drive off.”

Anyone thinking of buying a secondhand car can check the Buy With Confidence trader approval scheme, where members are audited by Trading Standards before being accepted. Alternatively, call Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 for further guidance.