The government have introduced free on-line vehicle history checks for buyers, albeit with some limitations.
All vehicle owners will be familiar with the perils of buying a second-hand car, not an easy task in any country, let alone a foreign one.
According to the French the consumer protection agency (Direction générale de la Consommation, de la Concurrence et de la Répression des Fraudes -DGCCRF), there are irregularities in nearly half of all second-hand vehicle sales in France.
Whilst many of these irregularities will be only minor, some pose a serious risk to user safety.
One of the key objectives of the government in launching the website is, therefore, to put an end to the scandal of "rolling wrecks - cars that have been damaged and put back on the road without any real control of major accident repairs.
Government figures show that each year thousands of severely accident damaged vehicles are withdrawn from circulation as unsafe, following inadequate repair by rogue garages and complicit automotive experts.
The other major problem concerns falsifying the reading odometer of the vehicle. According to the the AA, around 20% of second-hand vehicles in France have been 'clocked'.
In order to reduce the number frauds, the government have now established a website to enable sellers and buyers to access the history of the vehicle.
Among the information made available to a future buyer are:
- the date of the first entry into service of the vehicle;
- the ownership history;
- major claims repaired under the supervision of an expert;
- whether the vehicle has been stolen or credit claims on the vehicle, and;
- the technical characteristics of the vehicle, such as colour, power, pollution criteria, etc.
In addition, the website will also eventually provide the odometer reading of the vehicle for each MOT visit, although this information is not yet fully available.
The website can also provide a certificat de non-gage, which gives confirmation that the seller has unencumbered ownership of the vehicle and that they can freely dispose of it.
However, one of the major limitations of the service is that it is not directly available to buyers; in order to access the system, a seller must enter the vehicle details, which they can then make available to a buyer. Alternatively, if the e-mail address of the seller is known to the buyer, they can request the history report from them via the website.
The site does not provide details of the faults found on each visit, but the odometer reading recorded at the time of each visit is available, as is whether the vehicle passed the MOT.