A former salesman has been spared jail for selling a “perfectly fine car” which turned out to have been an insurance write-off after it was severely damaged in a crash.
Father of two Mark Healy, 36, of Bolbrook Drive, Tallaght, Dublin, gave the “runaround” to a customer who had bought the ‘09-reg Peugeot 407 for as a family car.
Convicting and fining and Healy €500, Judge Deirdre Gearty described it as despicable and she ordered him to pay €8,227 in compensation to the customer and €4000 in prosecution costs.
It followed an investigation by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
Healy pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court today to engaging in misleading commercial practice on October 31, 2015, by deceiving or misleading a consumer in relation to the usage or prior history of the car. The offence can result in a six-month sentence as well as a maximum €4000 fine along with orders to pay compensation and legal costs.
It happened at his brother Brian Healy's former car dealership BRM motors on the Naas Road, Dublin.
Catherine Kilcullen from the criminal enforcement division of the CCPC agreed with prosecution counsel Ronan Kennedy that the buyer saw the car advertised on a website by BRM motors.
He went to the premises and spoke to the accused, who gave him his business card with just his first name on it, Judge Deirdre Gearty heard.
The buyer took the Peugeot for a test drive and asked if it had been involved in an accident previously, Ms Kilcullen said.
He was told by Mark Healy that it had not been crashed, the court heard. Healy also told him that it was “good fortune that it had been previously owned by a friend of Mark”.
The court Healy told the customer it had low mileage because it was only driven by his friend’s wife.
He was told the car had a valid NCT for the next two years.
The car was priced at €7,950 and Healy accepted €7,000 along with a trade-in of his ‘02-reg Opel Astra. The buyer was given a six-month warranty.
The CCPC witness told the court that a couple of days after getting the car a number of problems were noticed. The man’s nine-year-old son noticed chrome trim cracked; there was a message on the dashboard saying a filter needed servicing and an image of a spanner was displayed.
He contacted Healy who told him the car was fine and the message would disappear. The new owner also noticed dampness and a musty smell in the boot and it got wet any time it rained.
The back passenger door would not close properly and took a number of efforts before it would catch.
A year later, Healy told him to bring it to a named garage and to ask for a specific mechanic. However, when the customer brought it to the garage another mechanic looked at the car and told him immediately that it had been crashed.
He was able to show him several welding marks and the back door was missing a hinge.
Mr Kennedy told the court Healy continued to give the car buyer the runaround.
The vehicle was independently examined and found not to be roadworthy.
It was confirmed the Peugeot had previously been involved in a severe collision and suffered extensive damage to the front and rear, which was “completely crushed”. The repairs were totally unsatisfactory and the vehicle was deemed not fit for use.
Some 141 photos of defects were taken.
The court heard that the car had been bought by BRM motors from a car salvage business after the accident and it had been categorised as an insurance write-off.
After learning this, the complainant who had bought the Peugeot as a family car for his wife and son, had to get another car for which he paid €3,799.
A bench warrant had been issued earlier to force Healy to face justice.
Defence counsel Matthew Holmes apologised on behalf of his client who did not address the court. He said Healy’s mental health was suffering as a result of the case and he had indicated he would plead guilty in advance of the hearing.
He was unemployed but previously helped in his brother’s business and did not know about the car’s problems, the barrister said.
He thought he was selling the car on behalf of his friend and he was not a qualified mechanic, Mr Holmes said.
“He believed he was selling a perfectly fine car.”
Mr Holmes added his client had brought €2,000 to court.
The court heard the car business was no longer functioning.
Detective Joseph O’Loughlin of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said the accused had eight prior convictions in the district court for public order and motoring offences from 2002 until 2006.
Commenting after the case, Isolde Goggin, Chairperson of the CCPC said: “As recognised by Judge Deirdre Gearty in her sentencing today, misleading a consumer about the history of a car is a very serious offence. Not only can it be costly but critically, it can be dangerous.
"Consumers need to be able to rely on accurate information from car dealers in relation to a vehicle’s roadworthiness and its history, particularly any damage history.
"Mr Healy’s conviction is a reminder to all car traders that if you mislead consumers or provide consumers with false information about the history of a car, you are liable to a criminal prosecution.
"In 2018, investigations by the CCPC resulted in eight enforcement actions against traders who were in breach of consumer law. The CCPC will continue to conduct further unannounced inspections around Ireland and will use our powers to challenge and take enforcement action against traders found to be misleading consumers.”