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Surge in second-hand car complaints

Consumers have been urged to learn their rights before buying a used car after a surge in complaints.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said the advice service Consumer Direct took just over 38,000 complaints about second-hand cars bought from dealers in the first six months of this year - an increase of 18% on the same period last year.

Complaints about second-hand cars continued to top the list of calls to the service, above mobile phones and TVs.

Around 3.6 million second-hand cars are bought each year, with consumers spending a total of £24 billion.

An OFT study found that many car owners ended up fixing unresolved faults that were the dealer's obligation to correct, costing an estimated average of £425.

Consumer Direct operations manager Michele Shambrook said: "Cars are an expensive purchase, so before parting with any money people need to know exactly what they are getting and what they can do if things go wrong.

"Dealers have a responsibility to sell cars that are of satisfactory quality. This will vary depending on issues including the vehicle's age and mileage, but as the vast majority of all second-hand car faults come to light in the first three months, they will often be the dealer's responsibility to fix."

The OFT and Consumer Direct have compiled a checklist for potential buyers, including questions about the car's mechanical history and mileage checks, the number of former owners, documentation about the full service history and any modifications.

They urged buyers to get the answers in writing rather than relying on verbal claims or promises by the seller.

The AA said the sharp rise in complaints from buyers was "alarming".

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From Belfast Telegraph