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Sale of Unroadworthy Cars – #Coronavirus Update

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As part of the Government strategy to combat the spread of COVID 19, vehicle MOT expiry dates will be extended by 6 months if it becomes due on or after 30th March 2020: this is subject to the caveat that the vehicle is kept in a condition which is safe to drive.

However, this does not mean that car dealers are exempt from ensuring vehicles are roadworthy or are allowed to sell cars under the promise that they are returned after delivery for an MOT or repairs; which has always been the case.

The bottom line is, there is no Coronavirus defence or any defence for that matter for selling or exposing for sale an unroadworthy vehicle. It is not only a criminal offence but one where liability is strict under s75 Road Traffic Act 1988.

This includes but not limited to the following items:

  1. the emission or consumption of smoke, fumes or vapour and the emission of sparks, ashes and grit: and
  2. brakes, exhausts, steering, tyres and lights; and
  3. size of the wheels

Bearing in mind that the criminal standard of ‘proof of beyond reasonable doubt’ is significantly higher than the civil standard of ‘on the balance of probabilities’, a conviction will almost certainly give rise to a civil claim that the car was not of satisfactory quality and/or fit for purpose.

While historically trading standards have been under-resourced to deal with the millions of cars and vans sold each year from the thousands of dealers around the county, the situation is different here.

In fact, one may reasonably argue that dealerships are required to be extra diligent where physical car sales are not taking place and dealers are relying on distance sales, if for no other reason than self-preservation- there is no possibility of relying on the defence that the buyer could have or should have noticed the issues through reasonable inspection.

In short, despite much being written about the relaxation of certain rules due to the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the pandemic, the rule of law prevails. In many respects the rules have tightened, so much so that as with pubs and restaurants, dealers that flout the law cannot be surprised if they are issued with a “prohibition order” and are prevented from trading under any circumstances.

Repairing and selling cars, in particular, is subject to a wide and complex legal framework which extends way beyond the confines of the Consumer Rights Act.

If you have any questions, or suspect you’ve been sold an unroadworthy car, contact call or email Stormcatcher Law for first free advice