I bought a stolen car based on an inaccurate history check. Is the company I checked with liable?

I bought a car that turned out to be stolen. I did a full history check on it - which gave me a £30,000 guarantee for any clones as it came out clear. On the website, there's a £30,000 Terms & Conditions page, on which there's no mention of buying the car with cash or exclusion clauses by doing so. As I couldn't pay by cheque due to the 3 and 5 days for this to clear, I decided to pay cash as I needed to ensure I actually got the car.

The insurance company now want £20k for the car even though I paid £17k and the history check company is refusing to honour their agreement to pay me back the money even though they talk about it all over their website. My solicitor says that they haven't been transparent about this and therefore it's an unfair term.

I would never have bought the car without their assurances and yet their 'accurate' data was incorrect. When you do eventually find the exclusion clause buried away at the end of their T&Cs it makes no sense and only says it recommends using the banking system such as cheque or BD, even though it does mention not paying with cash. I've appealed 2 times and contacted their senior management and MD who have rejected my claim. I have now gone to the Motor Ombudsman, Trading Standards and CMA. What do you think?

Asked on 4 March 2021 by David Noel

Answered by Dan Powell
A history check company can refuse to honour its agreement if it believes the customer has not taken every reasonable precaution to protect themselves from buying a stolen or cloned vehicle.

History check companies will usually insist (in their terms and conditions) that the car buyer:

-Asks the seller for two forms of ID (driving licence and utility bill)
-Inspect the V5C logbook (and ensure it matches the seller's ID, name and address)
-View the car at the seller's address (which also matches the address on the V5C and seller's ID)
-Do not pay for the car with a large sum of cash (or any other payment mechanism outside of the banking system)

You may have a case against the history check company if they haven't made it clear they will not cover any purchases of £30k or less with cash, but you will need to seek professional legal advice and pursue the matter through the courts if the company rejects your claim.
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