Brian Edwards Media

“Our kids buy a car on Trade Me and get ripped off in a big way” – The Story, One Year On

Car dealer

On the second of March 2012, I wrote a post entitled ‘Our kids buy a car on Trade Me and get ripped off in a big way.’ That story came to its conclusion three days ago, on the second of March 2012, exactly one year later. To understand what has gone on in that year, I’m afraid you’ll have to read the original post first. But it’s an instructive story that may serve as a warning to others.

First the dramatis personae (the cast):

*Jon Horvath, the original owner of the car, who sold it to Erkan, with $7,000 odd owing to the finance company, Debt Works, some of it presumably in penalty fees.

*Erkan turned out to be Erkan Kilic. Mr Kilic comes from Turkey. He was, he would later claim, selling the car on behalf of one of his countrymen, whose name was Onur Ozbal.

*Onur Ozbal, the actual owner of the car, then living in Australia.

*Anil Ozbal, Onur’s brother. It was Anil whom Quentin met when he went to uplift the car and hand over his $3,700. Anil handed him a scrap of paper with  the car details, price and Onur’s name on it. Anil then signed Onur’s name on the paper which Quentin took away as a receipt.

The car was repossessed roughly six months later. Of the four options which Quentin and Livy then faced to get the car or their money back, they opted to take a case to the Disputes Tribunal, which we used to call the Small Claims Court.  This wasn’t entirely straightforward since they weren’t entirely sure who ‘Erkan’  was and Trade Me wasn’t about to tell them without evidence that a crime had been committed.

In the year since the car was repossessed there were five occasions on which Q was called to appear before the DisputesTribunal:

  1. Present: Quentin, me, Erkan , a Turkish interpreter, Anil and a representative of Debt Works to whom the money on the car was owed. Jon Horvath had not been called and it was agreed there would be a subsequent hearing at which this could happen.
  2. This hearing was cancelled at the last moment because the Tribunal could find  no record of Anil Ozbal’s address. It turned out later that they did have the address but it had been misplaced. The hearing was rescheduled.
  3. This hearing was also cancelled because the Tribunal had forgotten to book a Turkish interpreter and could not find one at short notice. It turned out later that one was actually available.

Between hearings 2 and 3 something quite remarkable happened. I received an email from a young American student called Brogan Samuels. Brogan had come across my post and had some fascinating information to impart. In summary:

Brogan, who had seen Jon Horvath’s ad for the Caldina, was interested in buying the car himself. So he went to Horvath’s home to inspect the vehicle. He was told the asking price was $1,800 ONO. Brogan then asked Horvath whether the car had been in any accidents and whether there was any money owing on it. Horvath said the car was mechanically OK  but, yes,  there was money owing on it. He wasn’t sure how much.

Brogan lost interest and was about to leave when a another man arrived. Just as Brogan had done, the man asked Horvath about the condition of the car and whether there was money owing on it. He received the same answers as Brogan – the car was mechanically sound but there was money owing on it. Horvath wasn’t sure exactly how much.

Brogan later received a call from Horvath saying he had sold the car to a guy called Erkan so it was no longer on the market.

Two weeks later, still looking for a car to buy, Brogan was astonished to see the Caldina advertised on Trade Me. The seller’s name was ‘Erkan’. Brogan made an appointment with Erkan supposedly  to inspect  the car, but in fact to check if this was the same man whom Horvath had told there was money owing on the car. He was.

When Erkan sold the car to Quentin via Trade Me, he knew there was money owing on it.

I contacted Brogan who had been studying in New Zealand and was due to return home in a couple of days. Would he sign a sworn affidavit testifying to what he had seen and heard? He would and he did.

Quentin forwarded  Brogan’s affidavit  to the Tribunal.

 4.  Judgment for the full $3,700 was issued in Quentin’s favour. The judgement was against Anil Ozbal who, on behalf of his brother Onur,  had physically completed the transaction with Quentin. Anil subsequently appealed for a re-hearing on the grounds that he had been sick and unable to attend the previous hearing.

5.   Present: Quentin, me, Anil.  Anil argued that he wasn’t the seller, that he was merely standing in for his brother Onur who was in Australia, that  he hadn’t got a cent from the deal and that it just wasn’t fair. I was inclined to agree with him. But the referee explained that as the person who had completed the transaction with Quentin, he was legally responsible. Quentin and I suggested that his best course of action would be to get his money from his brother Onur or from Erkan.

The referee then dismissed Anil’s appeal, pointing out to him the consequences that could follow if he failed to pay Quentin the money, either in a lump sum or in instalments agreed between him and Quentin.

A cheque for the full amount arrived in Quentin and Livy’s letter box the following day. It was from Anil’s and Onur’s father. We are sincerely grateful. It was the honourable thing to do.

I’d like to regard this as a happy ending. But that would not take into account the distress which these events have caused Quentin and Livy.

For an entire year the parents of two young children were forced to rely on the kindness of others for transport to take their kids anywhere.

During that year five hearings of the Disputes Tribunal were set down, two of which were cancelled. This is entirely unsatisfactory. Justice delayed is indeed justice denied.

While it is true that Q  and Livy were foolish not to check at the outset whether there was money owing on the vehicle, there is an onus in my view on Trade Me, which makes a substantial profit on cars sold through its agency, to protect buyers from being ripped off in this way. Though they could certainly afford to check on whether money was owing on any vehicle advertised on their site, other options could be explored. Sellers could be required to provide evidence that the vehicle they were offering for sale was debt free. Even more simply, they could be required to tick a box stating that there was no money owing on the vehicle. This would be sufficient evidence for any buyer to produce in court or at the Disputes Tribunal if the car was later shown to have had money owing on it. In our dealings with Trade Me they appeared entirely uninterested in doing anything more to protect people buying vehicles advertised on their site. That, in my submission, is simply not good enough.

Q and Livy will soon own another car. They may buy it from an Auckland used car dealer who approached us for advice some time back when he was done over, quite unfairly in our view, by Fair Go . When he heard of the kids’ problem he offered to lend them a car for nothing while it all got sorted out. Naturally they accepted. There are some decent people in the world and they aren’t always recognised.

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22 Comments:

  1. Buying second hand cars privately can be a minefield. Go to any damaged vehicle auction or car fair and there are Turks, Afghanis and unscrupulous others looking for bargains. Our lax vehicle transaction laws make it easy pickings. Trade Me or any auction system could be required to operate under an’ escrow ‘system, whereby money is briefly held in trust, allowing a purchaser to check ownership and finance outstanding details before their cash disappears. It is not unreasonable to require Trade Me to gain a lot more vendor details on listings or auctions that should exceed say, more than $1000.00. They could also be required to offer vendor insurance to cover these risks as Ebay does.

    In my small business I had a ‘customer’ take a cell phone photo and list an item on Trade Me that was for sale in my shop, with the supposed intention of buying it from me if it exceeded my price. I helped the Police with their inquiries into this matter although it probably wasn’t technically illegal.

    You are being pretty naive however handing cash over for a second hand car, if you haven’t at least checked the owner’s details match the car, and contacted the security register for money owing.
    With Trade Me’s market dominance in many big ticket items it is not satisfactory for them to hide behind so called ‘privacy’ legislation when something goes wrong.

    • Some good advice there, Rick. Thanks

      • It’s funny how various ethnic groups tend towards the same trade – the Asians get the takeaways, Indians the dairies, and I, too, have noticed a distinctly Middle-Eastern tinge to bottom-end used car sales.

        My daughter sold her car to the head of a local secondary school for his son’s use, but 3 years later I happened to spot it for sale at Ellerslie: the swarthy-looking seller explained to me in broken English that he was selling it for ‘his friend’, who of course happened to be the very same Principal himself.

  2. Thanks for the update Brian. And big ups to Brogan for coming forward and making the case a lot clearer and easier for Q and Livy. Just one point though, have you contacted Trade Me now that the Disputes Tribunal has ruled in Q and Livy’s favour? Are they able and/or willing to sanction Anil, Onur or Erkan?

    • No, we haven’t considered that as yet, Jeanette. The kids are just so relieved to have finally got their money back. We’ll give it some thought.

      • Obviously Quentin is able to leave damning feedback on that trader himself.

        • 2.1.1.1

          I don’t know why it’s so obvious. However I do know that Q is perfectly capable of speaking up in a robust argument. ;-) :-)

          • 2.1.1.1.1

            Then you don’t know Trademe. On every trade you have the opportunity to provide feedback on the other trader.

            However, as Brian says the other trader was already banned by Trademe equally obviously the ultimate sanction had already been applied.

        • My understanding is that Trade Me took Erkan off the site following our complaint. This was good. However, one can’t give feedback on someone who is no longer trading.

          • I’ll bet he’s been back for about a year, under a bevy of pseudonyms. Good story though – and good guy he, Brogan.

  3. So that’s what “dramatis personae” means!

    Interestingly, it was Aristotle who came up with the term “suspension of disbelief” which is a very interesting concept as all plays, films and story telling in general rely on it. It’s like when you watch a science fiction movie and get frustrated that the normal characters can’t get it that they are dealing with an alien.

    • The German playwright Bertolt Brecht was an exception. He didn’t want his audience to suspend their disbelief. He wanted them to be objective about what they were watching and learn a moral lesson from it. To stop them getting emotionally involved with the characters his plays were presented with the house lights on. (The Threepenny Opera, Mother Courage and her Children etc.)

      • All his plays were as dreary as communist East Germany. His poetry was much more fun.

      • I like Kurt Weill’s music in Three Penny Opera.

        I wonder if “suspension of disbelief” is working in the case of the present government? It’s very odd that so many issues that would normally bring down a government have had no impact on JK’s popularity. Can we have a psycho-analyst over here PLEASE?

  4. Trade me has a feature called safe trader which allows(a fee is involved)the purchaser to satisfy the condition and legitamacy of the item before funds are released.The funds are held by trade me.I have used this many times and find it ideal for larger purchases.

    • Thanks pjr

    • 4.2

      It doesn’t help though if someone turns up to repossess your car a few weeks later. Apart from doing the Autocheck thing, making sure your trader has a long good history by checking the feedbacks is a simple trust test.

  5. This site may be able to satisfy your queries at a cost
    http://www.carjam.co.nz/?gclid=CJW84bzG57UCFWhNpgod81wAsQ
    including monies owed on a vehicle

  6. Bought a great little Nissan off TradeMe and took it off to Nissan Motors to be revalued at twice price. Local seller. $1500 cash. Some repairs since but excellent value. Do your research and don’t knock TradeMe. Happy purchaser here.