Singapore

Car dealer found to have tampered with odometer

Auditor recovers $20,000 in compensation

A motorist who bought a car that had clocked more than twice the mileage shown on its odometer, took the seller to court and won.

Madam H.M. Peh, 35, an auditor, sued used-car dealer Right Car and recovered $20,000 last week.

In 2015, she and her husband, Mr Steve Long, spotted a 6½-year-old Nissan Presage advertised by Right Car, a second-hand dealer in Turf City.

"We did an Internet search on it (the company) and there was nothing wrong with it," Mr Long, 41, said.

The Presage's odometer - which records the mileage of a vehicle - showed the seven-seater had clocked 75,000km.

"It looked nice," Mr Long said. "We asked the dealer if it was the real mileage, and he said yes."

They paid $59,000 and took delivery of the car in December 2015. But within a month, the car developed a few mechanical problems.

"My wife got suspicious, and she called Tan Chong Motor (the authorised Nissan agent)," Mr Long said.

200,000KM

Tan Chong Motor said the car had clocked almost 200,000km when it was last serviced in June 2015.

"We were very angry," Mr Long said.

They confronted the dealer, who denied knowing the odometer had been tampered with. After some haggling, the dealer agreed to take back the car and refund them $56,000.

But then, Right Car dragged its feet.

"In the end, they said, 'We don't want to give you any money', so we sued them," Mr Long said.

The court ruled in favour of Madam Peh in December, and she secured a compensation of $20,000. This is believed to be one of few cases where consumers successfully sued a dealer over a car with incorrect mileage. The sum Madam Peh was awarded is equivalent to the loss she made when she traded in the Nissan for a new Citroen Picasso.

"We'll never buy another used car," Mr Long said.

Right Car, which did not contest the suit, declined to comment when contacted.

Lawyer Vijai Parwani, who acted for Madam Peh, said: "Unlike jurisdictions such as e Australia and the US, which have specific legislation against tempering with odometers, there are no specific laws here.

"Having said that, it is possible that a party can be charged for cheating if he fraudulently altered the odometer so as to induce a buyer to purchase the vehicle."

Singapore Vehicle Traders Association first vice-president Raymond Tang said odometer-tampering is "quite common".

"Some dealers do it because it is easier to sell a low-mileage car," Mr Tang said, adding that a vehicle with a lower mileage would generally fetch a higher price, too.

But he said it is fairly easy for consumers to win a court case if there is evidence that the mileage shown on the odometer is not the actual mileage.

"They can check with the authorised dealer of the car, which should have the information," he said.

But to save themselves the hassle, Mr Tang said buyers should "buy from more respectable dealers, such as those accredited by CaseTrust".

Carcourtcheating