The use of online social media sites to buy and swap a large volume of cars is the target of an investigation by the state’s consumer watchdog to stamp out unlicensed second-hand car dealers.
Information provided to Consumer and Business Services (CBS) alleged that Domenico Richichi and Lauren Tozer had swapped approximately 35 vehicles over several Facebook sites during a 12 month period.
Deputy Commissioner George Kamencak said using websites to buy, sell and swap items, including cars, has soared in popularity in recent years.
“Websites such as Car Sales, Gumtree and Ebay are making it easier for consumers to buy, sell or swap their cars quickly - compared with traditional print advertisements,” Mr Kamencak said.
“However social media sites such as Facebook are also being used as a way to advertise vehicles for swap or sale, which is risky for the consumer and makes it more difficult to control.
“In South Australia a person who buys, sells or exposes for sale more than four vehicles in a 12-month period is considered to be a dealer and may be subject to enforcement action by CBS.
“The Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act 1995 includes ‘swapping’ in the definition of selling so we want to make it clear that for those people who are engaging in this type of activity on a regular basis are actually breaking the law if they do not hold a relevant licence.
“If any licensed dealers are using these sites, they are legally required to display their dealers licence number in their advertisements.”
Domenico Richichi and Lauren Tozer had sourced vehicles from individuals, auction houses and dealers and were found to be advertising on Facebook that also showed a relevant business card.
As a result of the investigation, the pair agreed to enter into an Assurance that was accepted by the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs.
A written Assurance is a formal undertaking that in certain circumstances, may be used in place of enforcement action such as prosecution or disciplinary action. Failure to comply with an Assurance could make the trader liable to prosecution.
“Ms Tozer also agreed under the Assurance to not engage in second-hand vehicle dealing without holding the appropriate licence.
“South Australian consumers can generally feel confident when buying a second-hand car through licensed dealers but are warned to be extra careful when exchanging cars through sites such as Facebook.
“CBS will continue to monitor vehicles for sales on these sites to identify unlicensed vehicle sellers.”