Millions of motorists have been ripped off in a £150million delivery scheme to inflate the price of new cars, it is claimed.
Eight in ten new cars have seen price increases of up to £60 after shipping firms conspired to fix delivery costs, according to a lawsuit.
A total of 17million cars are said to have been affected over ten years. Now lawyers are to launch a US-style ‘class action’ against five of the world’s biggest shipping firms to try to win money back for consumers.
Millions of motorists have been ripped off in a £150million delivery scheme to inflate the price of new cars over 10 years, it has been claimed (file picture)
Customers affected include those who bought from Ford, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Peugeot, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, Citroen and Renault, between October 2006 and September 2015.
At the heart of the case is a line near the end of every customer’s new-car bill which reads: ‘Plus delivery.’
The exact amount of ‘overpayment’ owed per customer will vary based on how far the car may have travelled, including from the Far East and the US.
The maximum overpayment is £60 with an average of about £9 per car. But if a family has bought or leased a number of new cars over the decade the sums quickly add up, according to legal firm Scott+Scott which is bringing the action.
The ‘class action’ – a group legal suit under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – has been filed in the Competition Appeal Tribunal on behalf of consumers and businesses who purchased or leased new cars and vans between 2006 and 2015.
In 2018, EU watchdogs found the five shipping firms guilty of running an anti-competitive price-fixing cartel – and fined them £330million.
They ruled that the firms had coordinated tenders, allocated customers, conspired on capacity reductions, and exchanged commercially sensitive pricing information to maintain or increase shipping prices.
The exact amount of ‘overpayment’ owed will vary based on how far the car may have travelled. The maximum overpayment is £60 with an average of about £9 per car (file picture)
All the companies had acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle the cases, watchdogs said.
The shippers were caught out by a so-called ‘ratters’ charter’ which gives immunity to the first member of any cartel to blow the whistle on their partners. This gives guilty firms an incentive to ‘rat’ first on the others to avoid hefty fines.
Lawyers say car-makers are not the guilty parties, pointing out that they too were outraged by the rip-off.
The five companies are Japanese carriers MOL, K Line, and NYK, Sweden’s WWL/EUKOR, and Chile’s CSAV. Although not household names, their role in moving cars around the world is huge.
The case is being led by Mark McLaren, formerly of consumers’ group Which? A pre-trial hearing is expected in the autumn.
He said: ‘When UK consumers and businesses purchased or leased a new car, they paid more for the delivery than they should have done… I strongly believe that compensation should be paid when consumers are harmed by such deliberate, unlawful conduct.’
David Scott, of Scott+Scott, said: ‘Consumers and businesses who bought or leased a new Ford, Volkswagen, Peugeot, BMW, Mercedes or Toyota, for example, are owed money.’
He added: ‘Just because these international shipping companies aren’t household names shouldn’t mean that they are able to get away with it.’
If the ‘class action’ case is won anyone who bought an affected car will be automatically entitled to money back. All they need to do is provide their details and proof of purchase or lease and they will get paid.
The shippers have already been hit be penalties beyond the EU, including Australia, China, Japan and the US.