Motor trading is something many of my friends decided to get into instead of taking the academic route, writes Dilly Hussain. And rightfully so, as they’re all in a much stabler financial position than I am! However, given the stereotypes many Britons have about Muslim car traders (usually of South Asian descent) can they really be trusted?
In 2009, there were 65,000 complaints made to Consumer Direct about second-hand car traders. This number went up to 72,000 in 2010 making buyers of second-hand cars the most disgruntled consumers in Britain.
The Office of Fair Trade’s (OFT) report showed that consumers buy more than 3.6 million used cars every year, spending around £24 billion annually. However, the report stated that the main reason for such a high number of complaints was as a result of “inequality of information between buyers and sellers,” “having access to accurate relevant information” and “poor after sales service.”
The report concluded that whilst most transactions were done smoothly, one in five consumers (around 700,000 buyers) experience a problem.
Whilst it would be a gross misrepresentation to assume that all “dodgy” car dealers were Muslim, one cannot ignore the realities that exist within their own circle.
Muslim car traders
Many of my close friends from school are car traders or the sons of successful traders. Their fathers or uncles grafted through the 1980s and 90s, investing their savings, waiting for the Auto Trader or local newspaper in the early hours of the morning to snatch the best deal before others did.
There’s two things that makes me laugh every time I’m in the company of my motor trading companions. Firstly, there’s an “unspoken” golden rule that you cannot buy a car from another Asian because they can’t be trusted. Secondly, they all have an English alias like John. Adam or Rob because apparently people would be “put off” from buying a car from someone called Khan, Mohammed or Abdul.
I must admit, those friends of mine, all of whom are registered tax paying traders, many with successful showrooms, are some of the most honest people I know. But the stereotype they have towards other Muslim traders is as a result of being the victims of “dodgy” purchases themselves.
Some, when they first started trading had their deposits kept unjustly, engines or gear boxes faulted within days of the purchase, had the miles clocked back or found out later that the car was in an accident and had been repaired. All these mishaps, according to them, happened when dealing with their fellow Muslim or Asian brethren, not white Englishman.
Rogue car traders
BBC Watchdog has been relentless in catching out dodgy car dealers. Surprisingly, it seems all the dealers they have exposed have been Asian Muslims. The first on their list were the Ahmed brothers who owned “Ace Cars” in Peterborough.
Kevin Mellor bought a Ford Mondeo from the Ahmeds for £2995. The car had 77,000 miles on the clock and a service history to match. After purchasing the car, Mr Mellor realised there was something wrong when it broke down on his way home.
When numerous attempts to make contact with the trader failed, Mr Mellor through vigorous investigation into the car’s history using the VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) realised that the actual mileage of the Ford Mondeo was 191,508!
Mr Mellor forwarded his complaint to BBC Watchdog who decided to sell the Ahmed’s a VW Passat with a genuine mileage of 128,000 for £2300. They contacted Ace Cars a week later as a different customer to buy the same car, the Ahmed’s offered it to them for £6200 with the mileage now on 47,000! Further investigations by the OFT showed that the Ahmed brothers went by the name of “Ashley Singh” and all their cars had been clocked back.
After pleading guilty to a variety of offences under the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, Abbas and Bilal Ahmed were given 200 hours community service and their uncle Rahil Ahmed was given a 26 weeks custodial sentence suspended for two years and fined £1795.
They were the first of many Asian Muslim motor traders that were exposed by BBC Watchdog.
Trading the Islamic way
After interviewing many car traders from the South East, London and the Midlands, it would be fair to say that majority are honest and hard working, whose reputations have been tarnished by a minority. However, there are common practices that still bug me like using English aliases, not clearly stating how much they purchased the car for so the price they’re selling at seems reasonable, and the distrust between each other (Muslim traders).
Owner of Hurst Cars Limited which specifically deals in high performance sports cars, Mahmood Khan said: “There are many principles Muslim traders can uphold when going about their business. Mention all mechanical defects, minor or major to the customer. Let them have a test drive, keep to your word in regards to deposits and offer a good after sales service even if that means refunds or financial assistance to repair works that was initially down to the seller.
“The motor trade isn’t easy, and traders with over 50 cars will find it hard to know the details of every single vehicle inside out. The seller can make genuine mistakes out of human error and forgetfulness, but as long as those mistakes are later rectified then you can sleep at night knowing you haven’t ripped anyone off”.
Managing Director of East Anglia Cars, Nasir Khan said: “All traders have been victims of faulty purchases at some point or another and it would definitely be wrong to assume that all dodgy traders are Muslim or Asian. If you’re a professional outfit, you’d provide a three month warranty under the Sale of Goods Act, legitimate paper work and like any other successful trade, a genuine after sales service. You just have to be as fair as possible.”
Moreover, the traders I interviewed offered some tips to consumers to avoid falling victim to dodgy sales or genuine faulty purchases:
1. HPI check the car you intend on buying. This can be done online. This will provide you with all the history of the car.
2. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 is a key right for consumers buying anything from a trader, not just a car. It states that the item should be of satisfactory quality, or as described. Under the Sale of Goods Act, the dealer should resolve the problem with a refund, repair or replacement if the vehicle was defective when sold, unless the defect was made clear at sale.
3. Test drive the car and run it up to the temperature.
4. Always check the engine, oil, gear box, interior and exterior.
5. Report any transactions that you suspect is intentionally in breach of the Sale of Goods Act to the OFT.
You can follow Dilly Hussain on Twiiter @DillyHussain88