Belfast Telegraph

Limavady car trader pleads guilty to selling 'clocked’ cars

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

A Limavady car dealer was today found guilty at Limavady Magistrates’ Court of selling or offering for sale six ‘clocked’ cars to consumers.

In a case brought by the Trading Standards Service of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Mr Michael Alexander Gahan, formerly of 8 Petrie Place, Limavady, pleaded guilty to three charges under The Fraud Act 2006 and a further 10 charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs).

The investigation arose following a consumer complaint alleging that Mr Gahan was selling clocked vehicles. Investigations by the Trading Standards Service revealed that Mr Gahan had sold four vehicles to consumers who had no idea that the cars they had purchased had had their mileages altered. Mr Gahan also offered a further clocked car for sale to two Trading Standards Officers as well as advertising a sixth clocked car for sale on the Used Cars NI website.

One consumer purchased a second hand vehicle with around 70,000 miles on the odometer from Mr Gahan in November 2010 after seeing an advert in the Autotrader magazine. The consumer later discovered that it had been clocked, having a previously recorded mileage of 145,000 miles when sold at an auction house in England in September 2010. A further car sold by Mr Gahan had a previous mileage of 168,996 miles reduced to 76,000 while another had been altered from at least 166,862 miles down to 72,000 miles. A fourth clocked car was sold to another consumer.

Mr Gahan also admitted to supplying false service history books with four of the cars and having in his possession three ink service stamps bearing the impressions of other vehicle specialist and mechanical service businesses in order to legitimise the incorrect mileage.

Sentencing was adjourned until a later date.

Damien Doherty of the Trading Standards Service said: “This is one of the worst cases of car clocking that the Department has seen for many years. The number of vehicles uncovered by this investigation and the degree by which their mileages had been altered, points to a systematic clocking operation by Mr Gahan. He purchased cars with high mileages, reduced the mileage and sold them to unsuspecting consumers in Northern Ireland with the sole intention of committing fraud.”

“Mr Gahan also went to great lengths to deceive his customers. He created false service books for each vehicle using fake garage service stamps to add another layer of deceit to his business operations and to help ‘authenticate’ the mileage of that vehicle.”

Mr Doherty explained how easy it is for the conmen to wipe the true mileage from a vehicle. He added: “Rogue car sellers can buy the equipment to clock cars themselves for around £100. Even though digital odometers were introduced to cut down on the number of cars being clocked, the reality is that they can be altered just as easy as the old analogue ones.”

“The Trading Standards Service is working hard to tackle the problem of car clockers in Northern Ireland. Recent cases have shown the extent to which some traders will go to make profits at the expense of the ordinary unsuspecting car buyer. A number of recent successful prosecutions of rogue car clockers by the Trading Standards Service helps to reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to identify, investigate and prosecute anyone found to be defrauding the public.”

Although it can be difficult to spot a clocked car, there are a number of practical checks that a consumer can make to check a used vehicle's history prior to purchasing a vehicle.

Trading Standards offers the following advice to reduce the odds of buying a clocked car:

· Buy from a reputable dealer: Vehicles may cost more when bought from a main dealer but they will have carried out checks on the vehicle's mileage before offering cars for sale.

· Bring someone with you that knows about cars: Excessive wear and tear on the driver's seat, steering wheel and foot pedals may be inconsistent with the indicated mileage.

· Ensure that you see all of the relevant original paperwork: The logbook, the car's service history and MOT certificates. With this information, you can contact the previous owners of the vehicle as well as the garages that carried out the servicing work to ask questions about the history of the vehicle. Everything should be present and correct. If it is not, simply walk away from the deal.

· Carry out an online vehicle mileage check.

· If you know the registration and chassis numbers of a vehicle, you can contact the Driver Vehicle Agency to enquire about the recorded mileage of the vehicle at its previous MOTs. The chassis number is visible on the bottom left corner of most car windscreens.

· Finally, never buy a car from the side of a road and pay cash to somebody you don’t know.

Anyone who believes they have been sold a ‘clocked’ car should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or log on to the Consumerline website at www.consumerline.org or the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service Facebook page.

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