A Hayes car dealership has been fined almost £60,000 for misleading customers by selling cars deliberately listed as being ULEZ compliant when they weren’t.
Elite Automotive Ltd, trading as Hilton Car Supermarket of 1-3 Uxbridge Road, admitted 12 counts of breaching regulations 9 and 13 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 29 June.
The fine comes following an investigation by Hillingdon Council’s trading standards team after being alerted by a customer who had bought a car they had been assured by Elite Automotive complied with the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).
The customer had bought the vehicle specifically to commute to a London workplace subject to the ULEZ restrictions where non-compliant, more polluting vehicles, are subject to a £12.50 charge per day.
The court heard that in using the car, the customer accrued £240 in charges. He returned the car for a refund and was also refunded £120 of the charges.
The council’s investigations in February and March 2020 revealed a further five vehicles listed on the company’s website as being ‘ULEZ free’ and ‘free from ULEZ charge’.
The court was told in November 2020 the customer then found the car he had bought readvertised on the Elite Automotive website and once again had been listed as ULEZ compliant, so made a further complaint to the council.
Following this, council officers found a further 14 vehicles listed inaccurately on the Elite Automotive website.
District Judge Wright described the company as having ‘wilful blindness’ to the risk of the offences and there had been a ‘reckless failure’ to put in place measures to stop the offences from occurring.
Cllr Eddie Lavery, Hillingdon Council’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, said: “This is an appropriately severe fine for a business whose behaviour has shown contempt for both its customers and the law.
“Buying a car is a significant investment for anyone and customers should have the confidence to part with their money without fear of being misled or mis-sold.
“This fine should serve as an appropriate warning that we’ll pursue and take strong action against any businesses in our borough who believe they can operate above the law.”
Elite Automotive, trading as Hilton Car Supermarket, was fined a total of £58,825 for the breaches and further ordered to pay court costs of £5,348, £1,120 compensation to the customer and a victim surcharge of £190.