A car dealership's £134,000 conviction for advertising an ex-rental car as having "one previous owner" has been overturned on appeal.
Last year, Evans Halshaw parent company Pendragon Motor Group was convicted of unfair commercial practice after advertising an ex-rental car as having one registered keeper.
But that conviction has been quashed on appeal after a judge said the ex-business use of the car would have had no affect on its value.
In November last year, Middlesbrough Council’s Trading Standards team were successful in prosecuting Pendragon Motor Group after receiving a complaint from a member of the public.
Council prosecutors, James Kemp and Andrew Perriman, told Teesside Magistrates’ Court how a potential customer saw an advertisement for a vehicle said to have one registered keeper in April 2017.
When the customer discovered that the one registered keeper was Enterprise Leasing Company, he complained to Middlesbrough Council’s Trading Standards.
At the original trial, District Judge Helen Cousins, said: “In my view an average consumer would be misled by such a description if applied to an ex-hire company vehicle without further clarification.
“I therefore find that the identity of the one registered keeper as a car rental business is information the average consumer needs.”
She later fined Pendragon £134,000 - equivalent to two weeks of the group's net profit - and ordered that they pay £9,360 in costs.
But last week, that conviction was quashed by Judge Howard Crowson following an appeal hearing at Teesside Crown Court.
A spokesman for Pendragon said: “We are delighted that having succeeded with our appeal, the conviction has been quashed.
"We would like to thank our legal team led by Jonathan Kirk QC, and Geldards LLP and also thank the independent expert, Dean Bowkett.
"We are extremely pleased that the Judge remarked that the courts exist to protect consumers against bad bargains where the playing-field is not level, and not irrational prejudice against ex-business use vehicles whose values are entirely unaffected.
"As a leading and reputable retailer, we will continue to take our legal obligations very seriously and treat our customers fairly."
Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “The original case was brought in good faith, so naturally we are disappointed that this appeal has been successful. We remain of the view that consumers should be told of the previous history of a used car, especially if it was used as a rental vehicle.”
The NFDA has been working on clarifying the issues surrounding the use of multi-user vehicles, and has also commented on the CTSI proposed guidance where the issue has not been addressed accurately. It is extremely positive to see that Pendragon has won their appeal on multi-user vehicles.