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Fake car mileage equivalent to travelling to the moon, some councils said

The LGA is calling for DIY mileage correction tools – widely available for sale online from about £100 – to be banned to help reduce clocking.

Mileage correction services and devices should be banned after a surge in ‘clocking’ which is putting motorists at a greater risk of buying dangerous used cars with false mileage, the Local Government Association urges today.

In one recent council prosecution a van sold with 89,000 miles on the clock was actually found to have travelled more than 243,000 miles, while in another council prosecution, the mileage differences on 10 clocked vehicles added together were the equivalent of travelling to the moon.

Latest industry figures show clocking – where the mileage is reduced to increase a vehicle’s resale value – increased by 25 per cent between 2014 and 2016 and costs motorists an estimated £800 million per year in the UK.

One in 16 vehicles checked now has a mileage discrepancy, which means there could be 2.3 million clocked and potentially dangerous cars on UK roads.

Rogue car dealers and private sellers can use mileage correction devices to knock off tens of thousands of miles on vehicles to make them look less well used and more desirable. This can increase the value of an average second-hand family car by up to £4,000.

As well as defrauding people through higher prices, the crime could hide serious mechanical problems on vehicles and lead to expensive repair bills, especially if a vehicle appears as if it isn’t due a service when it actually is.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging people to check a vehicle’s history thoroughly before buying it to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

A proposed EU ban on companies providing mileage correction services was supposed to be in place by May 2018. The LGA is calling for this legislation to be implemented as soon as possible and retained under UK laws after Brexit.

An existing legal loophole means that while knowingly selling a clocked car without disclosing it is fraud, it is not illegal to alter the odometer’s mileage.

The LGA is calling for DIY mileage correction tools – widely available for sale online from about £100 – to be banned to help reduce clocking.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Car clocking is a rising major fraud which not only rips off motorists but can have dangerous implications. Unscrupulous dealers are tricking unsuspecting buyers into paying thousands of pounds more for a vehicle with false mileage, which could put their safety at risk and lead to expensive repair bills if it is in a poorer condition than has been suggested.

“Anyone buying a second-hand car should make thorough checks to ensure that the vehicle is showing its true mileage and that its service history and MOT certificate are accurate.

“Clocking is tarnishing the reputation of honest used car dealers and sellers, and councils won’t hesitate to bring any car dealer or private seller to justice who shows a blatant disregard for safety and consumer rights.

“Trading Standards teams across the country often receive more complaints about used cars than anything else. This is why the proposed EU ban on mileage correction services needs to be made part of UK law as soon as possible, otherwise thousands more cars will continue to be clocked, jeopardising the safety of cars and passengers on UK roads.

“The sale of cheap mileage correction software also needs to be banned as this can only be fuelling the big rise in clocking and illegal profits.”

Anyone who suspects they have bought a clocked car should contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Advice on how to avoid buying a clocked car

  • Check with the DVLA for previous MOTs that show the car’s mileage.
  • Check the service history of the car to see if it tallies with the claimed mileage for each year – check that it goes up steadily and that it doesn’t suddenly drop.
  • Check the steering wheel, driver’s seat and pedals for wear that is disproportionate to the claimed mileage as a sign of a clocked car.
  • When collecting the car, check it shows the same mileage as when first viewed. It’s not unknown for the mileage to be reduced for a viewing, then to go back up once the car is being collected.

Case studies

  • A car dealer was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and ordered to pay a total of £130,000 in compensation and court costs after selling 10 vehicles with false mileage and manufacturing fraudulent service histories following a prosecution by Stockport Council. The mileage differences on the vehicles in question were the equivalent of travelling to the moon. One of the vehicles for sale in question, a high end Range Rover, showed 77,000 miles when inspected by officers, whereas the true mileage was at 131,000 miles.
  • A car trader was given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay a total of £82,550 in compensation to victims and court costs after being involved in a car clocking scam on 14 vehicles, following a prosecution by Enfield Council. Two accomplices were also sentenced for their part in the scam in which the defendants also supplied forged service history books and MOT certificates for the cars which were advertised on Autotrader and Gumtree. Officers were able to find evidence of 14 vehicles that had been clocked within a period of 18 months from the beginning of 2016 but a total of 148 vehicles were found to show reduced mileage after the vehicles had been purchased on a company trade account.
  • A Bournemouth car dealer was ordered to pay a total of £5,030 in compensation and costs after he sold a ‘clocked’ VW Transporter van to a customer, following a prosecution by Dorset County Council. The van was advertised on eBay as having travelled 89,000 miles, but when things began to go wrong with the vehicle, it was found that the van had actually travelled more than 243,000 miles.
  • Nottinghamshire County Council has received 67 reports of car clocking – nearly three a month – in the past two years (November 2016 to November 2018).

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