A west London car dealership has been slapped with a £58,000 for ‘deliberately misleading customers’ into believing that vehicles were able to travel free in the capital’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).
Elite Automotive Ltd, trading as Hilton Car Supermarket, was handed the eye-watering penalty after intentionally listing cars incorrectly.
The ruse was uncovered when a customer, who bought one of the cars in question, alerted the trading standards team at Hillingdon Council.
The dealership has now been dragged before Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, where bosses admitted 12 counts of breaching regulations nine and 13 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The court heard how the customer who tipped off the authorities had bought the used vehicle specifically for his commute into London.
He was assured by the dealer that the car met tight new ULEZ restrictions but was left stunned when he then racked up £240 in charges.
The dealer did allow him to return the car for a full refund but only refunded half of the charges he had accrued.
That same car was later put back up for sale on the Elite Automotive website, again listed as being ULEZ compliant.
An investigation by the council found five other cars incorrectly listed as being exempt from charges between February and March 2020, MyLondon reports.
After receiving a second complaint, from the original customer, investigators also uncovered a further 14 vehicles that had been inaccurately listed.
In handing the company its fine of close to £60,000, District Judge Deborah Wright criticised its ‘wilful blindness’ and ‘reckless failure’ to prevent offences.
Reacting to the sentence, 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 was fined a total of £58,825 and ordered to pay court costs of £5,348, as well as £1,120 compensation to the customer.
A £190 victim surcharge was added, leaving the dealership to pay a total amount of £65,483.
Find out more about ULEZ here.
Pictured: Uxbridge Magistrates and Youth Court (PA Images)