It just goes to show you how tricky the emotive issue of valuing someone’s car can be, as the OFT investigation into webuyanycar.com demonstrates; dig a little under the surface and perhaps the “we buy any car” strap line might have to read “yes we will buy any car but we will dangle a carrot first and then take it away when you are virtually hooked”. In fairness the only thing that amazes me is that people are surprised at what went on.
They are of course in business to make money from the cars they buy so they will naturally want to buy them as cheaply as possible and to give them their due they don’t say we will buy your car for more than anyone else. They just want cars to re-sell and make money from them in exactly the same way traditional car dealers do except that they have found a way of streamlining the process and giving sellers the perception that they are the best option when looking to sell their car.
The irony is that if car dealers were better at communicating effectively with prospective customers and making them feel that part-exchanging was the best option, sites like webuyanycar would not buy anywhere near as many cars as they do.
The other problem is that many car dealers are just not interested in taking in any car that a customer offers and therefore will turn the car away in favour of a more desirable part-exchange or a cash buyer and this has inevitably led to customers seeking an alternative outlet to dispose of their car. Let’s face it there is nothing like a quick, easy process and the promise of instant cash to persuade a seller.
The inference of ‘chipping’ as the report suggests where rarely is the online valuation the same as the final price paid comes as no surprise. The valuer wants the car as cheaply as possible and if they can find a reason to chip back the value of the car they will and being set targets doesn’t help but having someone on your doorstep poised with an imminent CHAPS transfer is very persuasive.
It’s likely that the practice of deducting from the final price the amount of any refund available to the customer from the DVLA for the road tax remaining on the car was never going to win them many friends and there was seemingly no thought about repeat and referral business. It may appear to some that operations like these are smash and grab merchants who just operate a numbers game and the more prospective sellers they can attract through their slick and persuasive marketing campaigns the more cars they can sell on at a profit yet according to webuyanycar.com they purchase thousands of cars every month and receive on average just 0.2% complaints.
The model for car buying businesses is good and offers sellers a genuine alternative for disposing of their vehicle however trust and transparency are a must and if the recommendations by the OFT are to give customers that confidence back then there is no reason why this rap on the knuckles and 1000 lines entitled ‘we must not mis-lead our customers anymore.com’ should hold them back.
Hopefully it will ensure that sellers can enter their details at webuyanycar.com safe in the knowledge that the online price they are offered will have a passing resemblance to the cash that hits their bank account.