What's my next step?

  [DELETED] 14:47 08 Feb 2006

I bought a private car number plate on Friday by phone and received this email:
Confirmation of Sale Dear James Thank you for your order.
You are purchasing registration mark xxx
The Purchase Price is £2,290.00 + £80.00 Transfer + £28.94 for Acrylic Plates. (Total Cost £2,398.94)
We are taking a NON-REFUNDABLE PART PAYMENT / AMOUNT of £2,000.00
Your rights under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations Act 2000 were lost on receipt of this email.
If the transfer should fail through our default you will receive a full refund of monies paid.
It is going onto / will be going onto a 2003 Jaguar XJ6SE. If your road tax is due to expire within the next 14 days, you will need to tax and MOT (if applicable) your vehicle before sending in your documents to us.
Congratulations on your purchase.
We will confirm the next step to your purchase in writing. You should receive the letter in the next 5 working days. In the meantime if you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you again for ordering from xxx

Today the sales manager calls up and says that the guy they are getting the plate from wants to add VAT (£400 extra) and they were therefore going to cancel the order unless I paid more than the price agreed. I asked him to put it in writing. He sent me this email:

Dear James,

Further to our telephone you can put any complaint you have to me.

I am very sorry for the trouble with this sale. From our company point of view it is not a very satisfactory outcome either as we have lost a sale and also have an unhappy customer.

We were informed that the number was for sale without VAT, sold the number in good faith but under these terms. We have obviously subsequently been told that the sale price was incorrect. As I am sure you can understand we are therefore no longer going to proceed with this transaction.

We have refunded your money in full and have made you aware that the number plate is still available albeit at a different cost price. It is therefore your decision whether you wish to purchase the number either through us or another dealer.

Our governing body is the CNDA, 2nd Floor, 9 North Street, Rugby CV21 2AB and you can reply to me on this email.

Once again apologies for the problem.

Best Regards

I then sent him the following letter:

Dear Mr xxx,

I am sending this email in response to your email of a few minutes ago pursuant to our telephone conversation.

The position is as follows:
On 5th February your company, xxx.co.uk, agreed to sell, and I agreed to buy, registration mark xxx for a total price of £2,398.94 in respect of which you took a non-refundable part payment of £2,000.

That oral contract was confirmed by your company by an email sent on the same day. Your email said “Congratulations on your purchase”.

Today I was surprised to be told that you now wish to charge a further £400.75, being you say VAT on the base price of £2,290. I am not prepared to accept this, and told you so. You say that you had understood the number plate was being sold without VAT and that that was the basis on which you sold it to me. I am afraid that whatever your understanding with the person from whom the number plate originated, the contract between us was plain and as set out above. If your company has made a bad purchase, that is your problem and not mine.

You say that you have refunded my (“non-refundable”) part payment. I do not accept that.

I do not accept your purported repudiation of our contract, and I am holding you to your company’s contract with me. In the event of your still refusing to honour it, I intend to bring proceedings for specific performance in the Small Claims Court without further warning. If you wish me to serve the proceedings other than at your company’s registered office, please notify me where you wish them to be served.

I look forward to your reply by return.


James xxx

A lawyer friend told me that if they do in fact sell the number plate to somebody else, I will not be able to bring the threatened action for specific performance, and would have to buy a similar number plate. My claim for damages against them would then be the difference in price between £2,398.94 and what you in fact paid.

Any advice on how to proceed next would be appreciated - how long should I give them to respond?



  [DELETED] 16:33 08 Feb 2006

I am aware that most cherished numbers are sold by dealers on commission on behalf of the owner.

I am unsure that the distance selling regulations can be avoided in the manner described but this may be academic because either the mark is successfully transferred or not

It seems to me that what you are seeking here is for the dealer to fulfil the transfer at the original price despite the fact that the owner now admits he needs (as a registered business) to charge vat

The mention of non refundable deposits of £2000 shows that this game has moved on since I bought my own cherished registration for £50 some years ago and thus has pitfalls to be avoided if possible

IMHO talk of small claims court etc in this business where keeping the dealer on-side is pretty fundamental is not the way to go

Perhaps I could make 2 suggestions

1) Look around the cherished dealer sites. Many of these numbers are offered on more than one site often at widely differing prices. You might just get lucky. There are internet search engines which can find any number entered

2) If you are set on the number, ring the dealer and offer to split the difference. That way you both get to do the deal

Now, what was the computer question again?

  spuds 19:11 08 Feb 2006

You have a contract, and it is the dealers duty to honour it, unless there is a specific legal clause regarding additional fees before final settlement.

If the dealer had undertaken the sale in a professional manner, then he should have allowed for all eventuallities like Vat.

The dealer as provided his governing bodies details, so contact them and see what their response will uncover.

The distance selling regulations can be slightly complex, as certain things can be excluded. For better advice, contact click here or download click here

  [DELETED] 19:13 08 Feb 2006

Thanks for your input guys. The dealer concerned is one of the UK's biggest and I truly think it should act honourably in this and take the hit itself rather than try and weasel out of it.

  [DELETED] 19:27 08 Feb 2006

OK, I accept that. He shouldn't try to weasel out of it

But in the long term what are you trying to achieve?

If you are prepared to pay £2,400 for a number, five year's down the line, is 200 quid going to make a difference?

  [DELETED] 19:49 08 Feb 2006

No it won't make a difference - I just don't feel comfortable doing business with a company who behaves like that. If he had apologised, explained the situation and made that offer as a goodwill gesture then I would have considered it but he didn't - he was rude, terse and abrasive and I'm not going to dig any further into my pockets to sort out his mess...
Point of principle and I don't care enough about the plate to compromise.

  namtas 20:21 08 Feb 2006

If you want some best advice that will save you from much heartache, forget the principles take your money and move on.

If you go to small claims, what are you claiming
You are not out of pocket so no claim here.
You were advised that the deal might not proceed
Compensation, compensation can only be for losses, which you must prove.

  [DELETED] 00:11 09 Feb 2006

VAT is on all reg. everyone will be charged VAT on any Reg sale. If a prevous seller offered a reg for sale but forgot to say if it was with or without VAT then it is not your problem however your seller aquired the plate, and how much they paid for it. There is always a risk of being out bid. Where you told that your price included VAT ? If it did not then you have to pay; if it did then refuse to pay any more. If they priced it wrong then THEY can remove it from sale, by law.If you can print off a contract of sale then this will help your case. Remember this...... MOST RICH PEOPLE ARE RICH BECAUSE THEY ARE TIGHT !!! Unless the plate is amazing then pull out of the deal, refuse to pay, do not go to court to pay what they want. Going to court shows them that you want what they have got and plays into their hand. Small claims court is for people like me who never get paid for work done.

  Forum Editor 08:04 09 Feb 2006

that you must resolve by negotiation. To be honest I cannot see what you have to gain by taking legal action against this dealer - if you want the number you need to maintain some goodwill, and the way to do it is by talking it through, not by threatening court action.

The dealer has offered you options to buy through them or through another dealer, they have refunded your money, and been perfectly open with you about the reasons for the increased price - they acted in good faith on the information that was provided to them by the third party. The fact that the third party has recinded or altered the terms of his/her sale to them is no fault of theirs. My personal view is that your success in court is by no means a foregone conclusion.

You should seek legal advice before taking any further action however - and we're not qualified to give you that.

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