OFT acts against webuyanycar.com

  • OFT takes steps against used car buying company
  • Concerns that valuations and pricing are misleading
  • Nearly 96% of customers paid less than site's original quote

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has found that webuyanycar.com provided misleading valuations to car sellers.

The OFT's investigation, that ran from July 2009 to June 2010, found that nearly 96% of customers received less for their car than originally quoted, sometimes by hundreds of pounds. This can be partially attributed, however, to potential customers not being accurate about the car's condition when entering its details online.

Despite this, users were given the impression that they would be paid the online valuation if the onsite inspection matched the condition they had entered - but once at the appointment many found that they would be offered nowhere near their original valuation.

Parkers spoke to a former employee of webuyanycar.com, who was working as a vehicle inspector during the time the OFT investigation took place. They told us: "We were given a target of, say, a minimum 25% cut in purchase price for the majority of cars that came through. We'd then have to come up with enough reasons to bring the price down by the desired amount."

The OFT agreed, stating that vehicle inspectors were set targets to reduce the purchase value of the vehicle, by as much as 25%, upon inspection. Reasons given usually included 'poor market conditions', adjusting the costs of already mentioned damage, or by claiming the car had been 'revalued'.

Customers were also given the impression that the quote was valid for seven days and encouraged to make a booking as soon as possible. However, once they arrived at a prebooked appointment, the vehicle inspector could already be looking to pay less than the customer had been quoted online.

"This wasn't an uncommon occurance" says the ex-employee. "Frequently we'd have people book an appointment and before they would arrive the system would 'revalue' their car, sometimes reducing its price by thousands of pounds. We'd then be expected to cut whatever percentage was required that day off as well, compounding the customer's disappointment."

The OFT was concerned that, once at webuyanycar's premises, customers would accept whatever was being offered them, even if unhappy with it, due to the time and money spent getting to the premises, or due to their circumstances.

"Many people would book time off, arrange transportation, sort out the purchase of a new car, and so on - then find that we weren't going to pay them what we quoted. More often than not they'd go through with the sale, as by that point many would have few options", claims the ex-employee. 

Webuyanycar cooperated with the OFT's investigation and has signed paperwork that includes promises to make clear the valuation online is not the price the company will pay, and that it will not set targets for valuation reductions.

It is also to make it clear that the next day working payment service, which costs £24.75, is optional.

Cavendish Elithorn, Senior Director of the OFT's Consumer Group, said: "... online businesses offering to purchase cars must provide clear upfront information on pricing and about how their service operates and company staff should not be incentivised to cut the valuation that has attracted the customer to their business."

Parkers Top Tip:

If you are looking for an accurate valuation then you can get a price using our What's it Worth tool. Parkers has been providing independent valuations to consumers since 1972.