A BELMONT woman swindled by a dodgy Lake Macquarie car dealership had purchased the vehicle to complete volunteer work with elderly people.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Monday that Discount Car Centre on Main Road at Boolaroo had been ordered to pay $47,300 in fines, compensation and court costs for winding back the odometer on 15 vehicles sold through the dealership in 2013.
Kerrie Abraham bought a 1997 Toyota RAV4 with 170,000kilometres on the odometer for $5000 from the dealership in 2011. But didn’t find out until last year that the car had actually clocked up more than 249,000km before she bought it. Fair Trading have confirmed Miss Abraham was a victim of the Boolaroo dealership.
But unfortunately, her offence fell outside the three-year statute of limitations dating from the most recent offence, meaning her matter could not be prosecuted and she was not automatically eligible for compensation.
The 55-year-old told the Herald she purchased the car to complete her volunteer work with Lake Macquarie Support Services, where she transports elderly people to and from doctor and medical appointments.
‘‘I thoroughly enjoy doing that sort of work,’’ Miss Abraham said.
‘‘I had a smaller car but needed something bigger to help transport people, who aren’t as mobile, around.’’
But in 2014, she was contacted by a Fair Trading investigator who told her the odometer on the RAV4 had been illegally wound back. She claims she was told to expect to be ‘‘well compensated’’ and decided to sell the car for $1000.
‘‘I had to think of my clients,’’ she said.
‘‘I didn’t want to be travelling somewhere like John Hunter Hospital or someone’s personal doctor and have the car break down. I couldn’t risk using it so I decided to sell it. I do remember I had my hand in my pocket a lot more than with previous cars, it did break down a few times.’’
Fair Trading said the dealership had been able to sell vehicles for as much as four times their original purchase price.
The business and employees Stephen Roy Chew, David Lawrence Chew, Michelle Terese Davies and Jayden Jeremy Francis Chew were convicted of 16 offences in Paramatta Local Court and ordered to pay more than $47,000 in fines, compensation and court costs.
Fair Trading said Stephen Chew had been director of the company since 2007.
A Fair Trading spokeswoman said more than $29,000 of the total amount went towards compensation for customers. But the business owners were only fined $1000 for each count of tampering with odometers because the offences occurred before changes to the Motor Dealers and Repairs Act doubled the maximum penalty to $22,000 in December 2014.
Fair Trading have said Miss Abraham can seek compensation in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
But Miss Abraham was confused as to why she had been approached by Fair Trading in the first place and said it was unfair that she had to pursue the money herself. ‘‘I wonder how many other people are in the same position as me,’’ she said.
A Fair Trading spokeswoman said investigators were bound under the Motor Dealers and Repairs Act to only prosecute offences that fell within the three-year statutory limitation.
‘‘It’s not Fair Trading’s role to get compensation for consumers,’’ the spokeswoman said.