The State’s consumer watchdog has uncovered an illegal second-hand car syndicate operating in Adelaide.
Intelligence officers from Consumer and Business Services (CBS) uncovered the group while investigating illegal practices in used vehicle sales.
Minister for Business Services and Consumers John Rau said unlicensed dealers were using multiple identities in an attempt to hide their activities from authorities and consumers.
“This syndicate involved an unlicensed dodgy dealer purchasing multiple vehicles from licensed second hand vehicle dealers who must have known of his activities,” Mr Rau said.
“It turned out he’d purchased about 30 cars over a two-year period often using the identities of other people to register and transfer the cars in an effort to disguise his activities.
“The regulation of our vehicle dealership industry serves to protect both traders and buyers.
“This crackdown comes as a warning for dodgy dealers who tarnish the reputation of the vehicle sales industry’s reputation.
“The creation of the intelligence analysis team in CBS checking vehicle information enables investigators to pick up unusual and suspicious activity like this, and those who flout the law will face the consequences.
“Further enquiries found the suspect’s sister was engaging in similar activities with other licensed dealers.”
Mr Rau said CBS has also uncovered instances of licensed dealers selling cars to staff members, who then on-sold them to the public without a licence.
“It appears licensed dealers wanting to dispose of unwanted stock found this method more profitable than wholesaling cars or sending them to auction,” Mr Rau said.
“These practices are illegal and dealers could face losing their licenses, and we are working with the Motor Trade Association to stamp it out.”
Consumer Affairs Commissioner Paul White said the illegal second hand car racket was a warning for other unlicensed dealers.
“Investigations are continuing into this case, with witnesses being called in for interviews to prepare the prosecution case,” Mr White said.
“The maximum penalty for trading unlicensed is $100,000, and witnesses who fail to cooperate face a penalty of up to $20,000.
“We now have greater capacity to track down unlicensed operators with a dedicated team of intelligence officers, so this sort of illicit activity won’t go unnoticed.
“Buying a used car from an unlicensed seller can be fraught with danger for the consumer - there is no cooling-off period, no warranty and no guarantee that the car is free of encumbrances.”
Consumers can check if a dealer is licensed by going to: http://pubreg.ocba.sa.gov.au/ and they can check the history of a vehicle by checking the Personal Property Securities Register at www.ppsr.gov.au.
CBS also has a free publication available to consumers called “Autocheck” full of tips for buying a car at: http://www.cbs.sa.gov.au/assets/files/buying_maintaining_car_web.pdf