Warning over online car valuations that could leave you out of pocket
- Warning issued after HonestJohn.co.uk readers hit with £70 fee for online car valuations
- Readers threatened with debt collection agency if they don't pay within 30 days
- Car owners should use free online valuation services, say Chartered Trading Standards Institute
Car owners are being urged to be wary of high fees when seeking online car valuations.
A number of readers have contacted HonestJohn.co.uk via Ask HJ after being hit with a £70 fee for requesting an online car valuation service from the website carrate.co.uk. The readers assumed the service was free and were shocked to receive a bill for £70, along with the car valuation report.
What’s more, they have been warned that if they don’t pay within a certain time frame an additional fee will be charged and after 30 days their debt will be transferred to a debt collection agency.
One reader said that he received the bill just before his eightieth birthday and it was “not the present I would want”.
The carrate.co.uk website promises "a valuation in seconds" on its homepage, but the £70 fee isn't disclosed until you read the small print in a pre-ticked box.
Owen Kennedy, the lead officer on motor trade matters at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), says the website does not comply with best practice as the terms and conditions are “verging on not being readable”.
The tick box is also not in the best position as people may be tempted to click ‘continue’ before reading it.
Despite the service being difficult to understand, Kennedy has warned car owners that contractually they are agreeing to the terms and conditions of the service, in his opinion.
Reader Derek Sowden is so aggrieved by the service he is refusing to pay. He informed HonestJohn.co.uk that the valuation he received was incorrect, giving him a price for a saloon car when in fact he has an estate. The report was also missing other key details such as the vehicle’s colour.
We asked independent expert Simon Harris, head of valuations at UK Vehicle Data, what he thought of carrate.co.uk’s service.
He said: “The language used in these valuations reads like legal jargon, and is extremely difficult to follow for those who don't have much experience of them.
“If certain data is missing in the report, with fields remaining blank, it suggests the provider doesn't have the information and can't meet customer expectations. Some of the fields including information in the wrong place, or inaccurate information, creates unnecessary confusion for customers.”
He added that it was “understandable” that readers would feel “aggrieved” at being asked to pay for an incomplete report and that consumers seeking a used car value need “clarity and trustworthiness” from whatever service provider they use.
CTSI’s Kennedy advised car buyers that there are “plenty” of free car valuation services available online from different providers. These include HonestJohn.co.uk, heycar, car supermarket chains and dealer-backed services.
“It is worth trying a number of sites as different services may have different preferences about which vehicles they buy,” Kennedy said.
HonestJohn.co.uk has sought a response from carrate.co.uk but the contact form on its website is unresponsive and the customer service email refuses to accept incoming messages.
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