On the second of, 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:
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. 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. 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.