I put a deposit on a car over the phone - have I been scammed?

I would be grateful for your advice concerning our attempt to purchase a car sourced on the AutoTrader website. My son saw a Citroen C5 Estate advertised in September 2012. He called the dealer and discussed the car with the manager/owner of the company. The car had 111,000 miles and was for sale for £2300. My son asked for and received a number of photos of the car and decided to buy it subject to an inspection when he went to view it. He asked me, as his father, to pay a holding deposit of £500 to the dealer. I paid using my Barclaycard to the dealers account and this was taken from my balance on 23 September 2012.

The dealer then called my son and told him that he had to withdraw the C5 from sale due to a fault discovered during preparation for sale. He said that he would refund the deposit at once to my Barclaycard. I must have called him on a weekly basis ever since and he continues to insist that either he has refunded the deposit or that he has instructed his accountant to make the refund. However, to date, still no refund. Neither my son nor myself have any evidence of this agreement or transaction other than my Barclaycard statement showing the deducted payment of £500. I have now submitted a claim on line to Barclaycard and hope that they will be able to action a refund. Should I notify AutoTrader of this and my concern about the trading ethics of this dealer?

Asked on 19 January 2013 by RP, Fareham

Answered by Honest John
Yes, this is plainly theft. The dealer failed to fulfil his part of the contract. You did not. If there is no evidence that the deposit has been refunded, report the theft to the police and to Trading Standards as well as to AutoTrader. If you cannot get the deposit refunded by Barclaycard, use www.moneyclaim.gov.uk to sue for the return of the money plus your costs using the small claims track of the county court.
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