Pendragon has successfully won its appeal against a £134,000 fine for advertising an ex-rental car as having “one previous owner”.
The firm, the parent company of Evans Halshaw, was last year convicted of unfair commercial practice after a complaint from a member of public.
However, the conviction was overturned during a hearing this week at Teesside Crown Court after Judge Howard Crowson said the ex-business use of the vehicle would not affect its value.
A spokesman for Pendragon said: “We are delighted that having succeeded with our appeal, the conviction has been quashed.
“We would like to thank our legal team led by Jonathan Kirk QC, and Geldards LLP and also thank the independent expert, Dean Bowkett.
“We are extremely pleased that the judge remarked that the courts exist to protect consumers against bad bargains where the playing-field is not level, and not irrational prejudice against ex-business use vehicles whose values are entirely unaffected.”
At the original trial, council prosecutors told Teesside Magistrates Court how a potential customer saw an advertisement for a vehicle said to have one registered keeper in April 2017.
When the customer discovered that the one registered keeper was Enterprise Leasing Company, he complained to Trading Standards.
At the original trial, District Judge Helen Cousins said the average consumer would be misled by such a description and should have been told that the one registered keeper was a car rental business.
She later fined Pendragon £134,000 and ordered it pays £9,360 in costs.
After the successful appeal, Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s head of public protection, said: “The original case was brought in good faith, so naturally we are disappointed that this appeal has been successful.
“We remain of the view that consumers should be told of the previous history of a used car, especially if it was used as a rental vehicle.”
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, added: “It is extremely positive to see that Pendragon has won their appeal on multi-user vehicles, following their conviction of unfair commercial practice after advertising an ex-rental car as having one registered keeper.”