Car valuation sites are causing trouble again
UPDATE 20/3/2017: The article is updated with letter templates.
UPDATE 24/10/2016: The article is updated with statistics for 2016.
The last time ECC Sweden warned about car valuation websites was in July 2014. In 2015, ECC Sweden received 899 complaints concerning car valuation websites. This year (24/10/2016), the number is 425, which is 7 percent of all complaints. The Swedish Consumer Agency has during the same period received 183 complaints, while the information service Hallå Konsument counted to 636 complaints. In recent months, the number of complaints has again increased in size, meaning that once again we need to inform about of the phenomenon.
The consumers who contact us have ordered a car valuation online, believing that the service is free, which has later proved to be wrong. There are many operators in the market, but the sites that dominate the statistics are hurmycket.com, autopriser.net and carprice.se.
Below we have compiled some of the most common questions asked to the ECC Sweden, together with the advice from our legal officers:
"I ordered a valuation, now I regret it"
When you order a service from a company within the EU, you usually have 14 days to cancel the purchase from the date you place your order. To cancel the purchase, you can send a message to the company in which you write that you want to cancel your purchase. Feel free to use our letter template:
You can also use a standard form to cancel the purchase. The company must provide you with the form when they inform you on your right of withdrawal.
"The company says I have no right to cancel the purchase"
Car valuation companies often claim that you do not have the right to cancel the purchase of the car valuation service, based on exceptions that says that the right of withdrawal does not apply to:
"service contracts after the service is completely performed, unless the service performance has begun, with the consumer's express consent in advance and the consumer has accepted that the right of withdrawal is lost after the trader has completed the entire agreement." (article 16.a in Distance contracts and off premises contracts Directive).
Often the company refers that you waived your right of withdrawal when you placed your order. For example, by checking a box that says your right to cancel the purchase ends when the valuation of the car is finished.
The company must inform you on your right of withdrawal
However, the company must inform you about your right of withdrawal before you buy the service. The information must be clear, so that you understand what your rights are. The company must provide you with the following information:
- that you have a right of withdrawal and the conditions of withdrawal
- information on the time you have to cancel the purchase
- information on how to cancel the purchase
- a standard form for withdrawal
If you have not received this information, you might have up to one year and 14 days to cancel the purchase.
Remember that the withdrawal period starts when you receive the information on the right of withdrawal. If the company sends the information afterwards, you have 14 days to cancel your purchase from the moment you get the information.
The picture above shows how it might look on a car evaluation website, when you are asked to confirm that you are over 18 years.
"I'm underaged, but have ordered an evaluation"
Several of the car evaluation sites we receive cases against, direct their marketing towards Sweden which means that Swedish law is applicable. According to the Parental Code a person under 18 years may not enter into binding agreements. There are exceptions, but none of these seem to be applicable in the cases with car evaluations.
Nonetheless, the seller may claim compensation for the direct costs he incurred as a result of the agreement and the buyer's deception about their age. It is thus possible that a minor is liable to compensate the company for its costs to develop the valuation, but not, for example, the profits which the company takes out.
Note that even a minor consumer has the same rights as an adult when it comes to making use of the right of withdrawal.
"I have not ordered any evaluation!"
If you have not ordered any car valuation nor have signed a contract with the company, you are not obliged to pay anything. However, it is important that you contest the bill on the grounds that you have not ordered anything. Feel free to use our letter template:
If the company doesn't accept your contestation and if you continue to deny their claim, it will be up to the company to pursue the matter in court and prove that you have actually made an order. If you are more than one person in your household, it might be good to go through the browser history to see if anyone else has visited on the site of the matter earlier.
"I have received a letter from a debt collector, do I need to worry?"
The debt collection company may lack permission to collect debts in Sweden. If you have previously disputed the invoice and belong to any of the above categories, it is our recommendation that you continue to dispute the invoice to the debt collection company with the same message that you have previously written to the car valuation company.
A collection agency has no special powers and can not themselves provide the consumer with a payment default.