When Sana Fathima bought a 2008 Honda Accord on Qatar Living three years ago, she thought she was getting a good deal.
The vehicle only had a mileage of 70,000km. And the inspection company she took the car to said it was operating well.
But several months later, she had to go to a service center after encountering problems with almost every part of the car, including its engine, brakes and wipers.
This is when she discovered that her car had been brought to the service center one year ago. At the time, the mileage was 100,000+ km.
The service center also informed Fathima that the vehicle had belonged to a car rental company, though the seller had told her it was his wife’s.
According to online complaints, such experiences do not happen rarely in Qatar’s fairly unregulated second-hand car market.
However, many people are unsure about their rights or what to do when such fraud takes place.
Fathima told Doha News that she chose not to go to the police because she didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. Instead, she notified the seller of the car:
“I called the guy directly and warned him that if he did not buy the car, we will complain to the police. He finally bought the car back but at a lower cost since we used it for over a year by then.
However, a friend who also found himself in a similar incident last week did go to authorities, she added.
Speaking to Doha News, the man, who asked not to be named, said he had bought what he thought was a family’s car.
He had conducted a computer check on the Kia Rio model that revealed no major issues.
But later, he found paperwork inside the vehicle that proved it had also belonged to a rental company.
The mileage was recorded as 86,000km in May 2016, though when the car was sold, it read 30,000km.
However, when he went to the traffic department, he was told to go to the police station. After searching online for one and visiting it, the police there told him to go to a station closer to his home.
But he remains unsure how to locate this office.
“I wish I knew these problems were so common here and what the exact procedure was to go about such issues,” Fathima said.
According to local attorneys, a second-hand car buyer in Qatar who discovers that he/she has been duped does not need to go to the police since this is a civil and not a criminal offense.
Instead, he or she can file a legal case against the seller in court or by to contracting a lawyer.
Speaking to Doha News, Abdelmoniem M. Abutiffa, a legal consultant at the Qatar International Law Firm, said:
“Though this issue is not addressed directly under Qatari law, if it happens here, there are provisions under Qatari Civil Law that address fraud and deception in general.”
He added that Article 455 of the Civil Code states that “if the sold item at the time of handover is found to have any defect that either lessens the value of the item or lessens the benefit of the sold item,” the buyer has two options:
- Under Article 451, the buyer has the right to return the sold item and get back the price he paid plus compensation, as decided by the Court of First Instance; or
- Under Article 134, the buyer has the right to declare the contract null and void if deception or lies were involved in making the sale.
If working with a lawyer, legal fees in the case would be determined by the cost of the car, Abutiffa added.
Of course, not getting swindled in the first place is the ideal scenario.
Speaking to Doha News, Khalid A. Hashem, senior vice president of Car Maxx Services, offered this advice:
Get a comprehensive inspection done
Take the car to a center to conduct an overall inspection of the suspension and brake (preferably computer-aided), under-carriage and chassis.
This will indicate whether any major accidents occurred and offer body paint and engine quality assessments.
Such packages usually cost between QR250 (for standard sedans) to QR400-600 (for four-wheel and luxury cars).
Consider further testing
An additional test would be needed if you suspect that the mileage of the car has been “adjusted.”
This is called Body Control Module (BCM) testing, according to Dani Jose, Car Maxx’s chief inspector who has worked for the company for eight years.
He added, “Only in the case of US-made cars such as Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler can the BCM detect the actual mileage, even if there has been tampering, but in other cars, it will only show a ‘fault’ and will not say anything more specific.”
Be wary of scams
For its part, Qatar Living has posted a list of several other tips to help residents looking to buy a used car.
They include looking at the vehicle in the daylight to catch any scratches or dents, never give out personal or financial details online and remember that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
Speaking to Doha News, QL senior editor Mohammed Noor said:
“While Qatar Living has been a boon for several residents in the country, some individuals persist on misusing the platform to swindle users.
Although we do not moderate or facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers, we do provide precautional tips to users through our forums and social media channels. We also take down fraudulent ads as soon as they are reported by other users.”