Nearly 1,800 used cars change hands on average every day in Scotland. For the overwhelming majority of drivers, the transaction is smooth and hassle-free. But sometimes, things go wrong, writes Andrew Bartlett of Advice Direct Scotland.
When you get the keys, you discover the car is damaged, it breaks down, or it has even been illegally altered. There are many steps you can take in advance to minimise the risk, but if you encounter problems after buying a car it’s important to find out your rights.
That’s where Scotland’s new consumer advice service comes in.
Launched today by the Scottish Government’s Business Minister Jamie Hepburn, consumeradvice.scot is an innovative new service that provides free, practical and impartial advice for every single person in Scotland.
The landmark move follows the devolution of consumer advocacy and advice to Holyrood under the Scotland Act 2016.
Funded by the Scottish Government, Advice Direct Scotland runs the service from our centres in Glasgow and Stornoway.
To make the service accessible for everyone in Scotland, including on their smartphones, consumers can raise their enquiry through the new freephone number 0808 164 6000, as well as via web chat, email, or social media.
We started rolling it out last month and so far we’ve been handling around 250 interactions every day, although we expect this to rise in the weeks and months ahead.
To date, problems with used cars have been the most common issue raised by consumers.
But the advice you can access is wide and varied.
Furniture sales are the second most common issue that’s brought up with our advisers. When you pay so much for a new sofa, if anything goes wrong then it’s important to seek advice on the next steps. Building work is another common issue.
The vast majority of firms building conservatories, refitting kitchens or installing double glazing will do a top-rate job, but there are always a few unscrupulous workers out there.
Perhaps they misled you into buying their services, or didn’t carry out the work properly, or left your home in a dangerous state.
That’s why we work closely with Trading Standards teams in local authorities across Scotland. They decide whether to investigate and can take action against traders.
Our consumer advisors provide practical and impartial advice on how to resolve your consumer problem; inform you of the consumer laws which may apply to your situation; and pass relevant information onto Trading Standards for further investigation – something which cannot be carried out by yourself.
We also deal with holiday booking disasters.
Last year, more than 5,000 people in the UK were the victims of booking fraud, costing holidaymakers as much as £7 million.
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We’ve helped some of them understand their rights and what they can do next.
And we’ve dealt with calls about clothes bought in shops; mobile phone handsets; gift cards; gym memberships; and even takeaways.
The type of concerns raised with us vary hugely, but there is one constant: the advice people receive makes a difference and it is now completely free to use.
We support efforts to grow Scotland’s economy, and key to that success is ensuring consumers have greater confidence in what they buy.
Twenty years since the Scottish Parliament opened its doors, and in a digital era when the way people access information has dramatically changed, the time is absolutely right for this new devolved consumer service.
Our aim is to improve the shopping and trading experience for every single consumer in the country.
Andrew Bartlett is chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland