A Ferndown car trader has been fined after he was found guilty of advertising a clocked car and obstructing trading standards officers who visited his premises to investigate.
Abdul El Fortia (aged 33) of Malmesbury Court, Malmesbury Road, Bournemouth was sentenced at Poole Magistrates’ Court on 23 December 2021 for offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The sentence relates to the clocking itself, obstruction of an enforcement officer and for possessing counterfeit Nike training shoes which officers found at the premises. El Fortia had been a director of Ferndown Car Sales Ltd trading from 13 Cobham Road: the company was also fined.
The court heard that Dorset Council’s Trading Standards team received a complaint from a consumer living in Scotland who had seen the car, a VW Passat, advertised on a car sales website. He telephoned the company and after asking about the condition and history of the vehicle, paid a deposit and arranged a date to fly down to collect the car. He later performed an internet search which showed that the car had been a private hire vehicle licensed in Portsmouth. Portsmouth City Council told him the true mileage of the car-312,000 miles and not the 71,000 miles advertised- and he contacted Ferndown Car Sales, who appeared surprised, and gave him a refund. He then complained to Dorset Trading Standards.
Trading Standards officers visited the garage where they identified themselves to an employee who showed them the service history of the car which had been altered to hide the true mileage. El Fortia told the court that he had been asleep in a room next to the office and when he woke and was told that the officers planned to take the documents away, he insisted that they leave his garage, grabbed the documents back and became threatening. El Fortia gave evidence that he did not know who the men were and he mistakenly believed that they needed a warrant to enter his premises. The officers returned at a later date with police support. El Fortia was again uncooperative, but on this occasion the officers seized the paperwork relating to the car and 52 pairs of Nike trainers found in the room next to the office.
The investigation found that the VW Passat car had been licensed as a taxi by Portsmouth City Council and was exempt from having an MOT as it was subject to the Council’s more stringent regime. When it was retired as a taxi it had been part-exchanged at a VW main dealer who sold it through a trade-only internet auction to Ferndown Car Sales, still with the correct mileage. The car was collected from the VW dealer and on the same day the mileage was altered and the car then passed an MOT showing the lower mileage. This MOT then appeared on the .GOV website, after a break when no MOTs had been done. After the sale to Ferndown Cars, pages had been removed from the service history booklet so that it appeared consistent with the lower mileage.
El Fortia pleaded not guilty to all charges. He told the court that he allowed a number of other people to use his website to sell cars and his login details to the trade auction website to buy them and was paid a small commission for doing so. In relation to the Passat, he said that he didn’t know the mileage was false until the officers’ visit and that he hadn’t bought the car. He said that at the time of the officers’ first visit he was unwell and was disorientated having just woken up, and he had not been threatening towards them. When asked about the trainers, El Fortia said he was storing them for a friend of his brother, and they were not for sale. He admitted he knew they were counterfeit and was unable to explain why an invoice relating to the trainers was made out to ‘Abdul’. He was found guilty on all charges after the trial on 19 October.
On 23 December Ferndown Car Sales Ltd was fined £500 with costs of £1000 and a victim surcharge of £50. El Fortia was fined £1276, with costs of £1500 and a victim surcharge of £127. He was also disqualified from being a company director for 5 years and a forfeiture order was made for the trainers.
The chair of the Magistrates said that reducing the car’s mileage was a deliberate act motivated for financial gain and that trading standards’ role was to protect everyone and they should be applauded for bringing the case to court.
Cllr Laura Miller, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Customer and Community Services, said:
“We take misleading consumers very seriously. Our Trading Standards team will continue to take appropriate action to protect our residents against unscrupulous people who would sell counterfeit or wrongly advertised goods.
“Consumers who want advice about vehicles or other goods and services they have bought, or wish to report unfair or unsafe trading to Trading Standards, should call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or visit the website. This is the first point of contact for all consumers on Trading Standards issues.”