Self-employed carpenter Paul Murry was furious after he realised he’d been taken for a ride by an online used car dealer who sold him a replacement van that was potentially dangerous.
The Gosport-based tradesman urgently needed a modestly-priced commercial vehicle to get him around.
So in January, 2016, he went the way of many Streetwise readers and turned to the internet in search of a suitable set of wheels.
Never having bought a used vehicle before, Paul admits he was far too trusting and naïve after he was attracted to a Fiat Doblo 1.3 van he saw advertised for £2,995 on Gumtree.
It was one of a number of vehicles that had been put on the site by Southampton used car dealer Anish Chadda, who also traded under the name of Vans 4 Less Ltd.
But only a few days after he bought it Paul, 53, discovered it had a number of serious mechanical defects which allowed toxic exhaust fumes to enter the cab.
When he rejected it and insisted on a full refund, it sparked an acrimonious 11-month legal battle with salesman Chadda and hours of stress trying to get his hard-earned money back.
Paul explained: ‘I went into the deal blind and trusted him as he seemed like a really nice bloke.
‘He came over as everything you’d want from a decent car dealer.
‘The van was smart and looked the business for the price. I couldn’t see any reason not to buy it.
‘But three days after I bought it, I got a motor mechanic friend to look over it to check the basics to make sure it was 100 per cent safe.
‘I was absolutely stunned, gobsmacked, when he told me that it was a heap.’
The mechanic rightly told Paul that, as the defects had come to light within 30 days from purchase and it wasn’t fit to be driven, he was automatically entitled to a refund.
Paul immediately got on to Mr Chadda and asked for his money back. He wrote to him twice rejecting the vehicle, but all he got for his pains was evasion and denial of his statutory rights.
He contacted the CAB’s advice line, which confirmed where he stood. They raised the matter with Southampton trading standards, but Paul then to call in Streetwise for assistance and advice.
We looked through Paul’s carefully-crafted letters and the sales documentation which sadly reflected the experience of many Streetwise readers who have complained about being taken in by used car dealers.
Our attempt to speak to Mr Chadda about Paul’s complaint resulted in a 60-second barrage of verbal abuse far too offensive to repeat in a family newspaper.
Paul was seething about the way he’d been treated and was determined not to take the matter lying down. What narked him most was what he saw as complete contempt for the risk he’d unwittingly been exposed to.
The more he looked into the history of the vehicle, the angrier he got. He believed he’d been made to look incredibly stupid with his admitted naivety and getting sucked in by a persuasive salesman.
He believed his only option was to take the salesman to court.
Streetwise agreed with Paul there was a fundamental issue of safety at stake, and it was imperative that Mr Chadda wasn’t permitted to potentially put him at unacceptable risk and keep his money.
In an unusual step, we agreed to help him assemble his evidence, go through the process of putting the court case together, and offer advice about dealing with the legal formalities.
We helped Paul claim his £2,995 back for the van, plus his out-of-pocket expenses for obtaining independent reports about its mechanical condition and costs totalling £3,886.
Although this added to the stress of having his day in court, he was unwavering in his determination to see the matter through to the bitter end.
He said: ‘Going to court was really scary, but he put more steel in me to go through with it because of the total disdain he was treating me with, like I didn’t have a clue about my rights or anything.
‘It was very clear he wasn’t at all interested in my safety or anybody around me whilst I was driving.
‘He was just out to make the money.’
But Paul was completely vindicated when last November his day in the Southampton County Court finally arrived.
After a short hearing in which Mr Chadda could offer no evidence he’d checked the van over for the lethal defects before he sold it, the court didn’t hesitate in ordering him to pay up promptly and in full.
Streetwise tried to track down Mr Chadda for further comment, but it appears he has moved on and sold up, so didn’t return our calls.
A philosophical but much-relieved Paul said he felt a million dollars when he left court and realised he’d won the day, but he had some valuable advice for Streetwise readers who were looking to buy a used car.
He added: ‘Don’t buy a used vehicle until you’ve had a reliable, trustworthy mechanic look at it.
‘It was my biggest regret. I should have held back until my mechanic could have gone with me to look at the van – but you live and learn.
‘If people are 100 per cent sure of their rights, then I’d say to them don’t be scared to go to court.
‘I’d really like to thank Streetwise for all the back-up. It was brilliant.
‘Probably the best thing Mr Chadda ever did for me was to question your parentage and slam the phone down.’