Online vehicle trading is becoming increasingly popular. For professional car dealers, too, the Internet has now become the main way of placing ads and establishing contact.
The initiators of this code (ADAC e.V., the "Zentrale zur Bekämpfung unlauteren Wettbewerbs e.V." (Centre for Combating Unfair Commercial Practices), the "Zentralverband des deutschen Kraftfahrzeuggewerbes e.V." (ZDK: umbrella organisation of the Germany automobile industry), the Internet-Marketplaces AutoScout24 GmbH (AutoScout24) and mobile.international GmbH (mobile.de) agree that future growth is directly dependent on maintaining high quality in online vehicle trading. The trade's capital is user satisfaction. We can only ensure this if online vehicle adverts have maximum transparency and if transactions are processed properly.
So it is extremely important that we try to avoid nuisances that aim to cheat innocent consumers or gain unfair advantage in the car dealer market. So, at the 2007 German Transport Forum, the decision was taken to draw up binding, common standards of conduct for this sector.
The code that has been drawn up for this purpose is aimed at the online automotive sector (henceforth: dealers), their associations (henceforth: dealer associations), consumer organisations and all those who run online advertising marts that offer the option to place vehicle ads (henceforth: advertising marts) and comply with the rules that have been laid down.
The code aims to provide joint opposition to those factors that jeopardise secure, high-quality online vehicle trading. Therefore the overriding goal is, as far as possible, to ensure that there is security for buyers, protection against attempts to defraud, and fair competitive conduct amongst online dealers. Having binding rules of conduct will ensure that there is transparency, and actively and jointly combat the misuse of the opportunities that online vehicle trading provides.
The code aims to safeguard and promote the great benefits of online vehicle trading for all users. In particular, the code is intended to increase buyer and seller satisfaction and to ensure that these deal with one another in a trustworthy way. This will help protect consumers and competition. Common rules of conduct that apply to all those involved in online vehicle trading will form an appropriate basis for this.
The initiators have, therefore, drawn up rules of conduct that aim to ensure that online vehicle trading is correct. Those who accept the code will follow the rules laid down here. Dealers, advertising marts and associations will also communicate the code on their website so that all users of online vehicle trading can easily view the code at any time.
Dealers undertake to comply with the code and to help communicate it amongst their customers. They will refrain from any conduct that jeopardises the security and quality of online vehicle trading. User satisfaction is their primary objective.
Dealers will comply with all obligations deriving from legal guidelines. In particular, the following obligations are included:
- Dealers will provide the following information which is required by Article 5 Telemedia Act (in German, the "Impressum", or 'legally required information') or, at least, enable it to be accessed via a direct link:
- Dealers will supply the further details required under the German Pricing Ordinance (PAngV). Under Article 1 Para 1 PAngV, end prices should be provided in the relevant price field which, in particular, have to include VAT and other pricing components (particularly destination charges). Ads with prices that are clearly incorrect or misleading are not permitted (on this, see also under Showing Prices).
- Dealers will provide, to the extent that the Ordinance on Consumer Information about Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions in New Cars (Pkw-EnVKV) prescribes this, details about fuel consumption and about the CO2 emissions and, at the same time, will also employ the pointer to the detailed information on official fuel consumption and on specific C02 emission. This can be taken from the guidelines that can be accessed on the website belonging to DAT Deutsche Automobiltreuhand GmbH (DAT) (under: http://www.dat.de/leitfaden/LeitfadenCO2.pdf). These guidelines should be referred to in the advert in relation to information on consumption and emissions.
- In cases where a remote sale contract is concluded, dealers shall note the extensive obligations imposed by the Remote Selling Act both prior to and after the conclusion of the contract, particularly the duty to provide information about rights to cancel the contract and return the item purchased.
Dealers undertake to truthfully assign the vehicles they have advertised according to the vehicle categories defined – new vehicles, used vehicles, single day registrations, employees' cars, demonstration vehicles, classic vehicles – in this code's Glossary and to refrain from placing ads for vehicles in incorrect categories.
The definitions form part of this code and are attached to it as an annex. They shall also be made available in a suitable form for users to access.
Full and truthful details
In their adverts, dealers must describe their vehicles truthfully and fully. They are liable for the details being complete and accurate. Dealers shall include in the detailed description all of the vehicle's important characteristics which are essential for making a buying decision, including any significant damage to the vehicle.
This particularly includes the duty to declare any significant damage that has not been repaired, which must be described fully and truthfully. The details provided ought not to trivialise the damage and the damage should be documented in a photo. A vehicle may only be advertised as "accident-free" if the dealer has convinced themselves of this state and if they are able and willing to vouch for this in law.
The real total mileage must also be specified correctly. If this is not known or needs to be ascertained, it should be indicated that the mileage given is only that which has been read from the clock. If the vehicle is fitted with a replacement engine, this should be declared. The dealer must also say if a vehicle is an EU import.
Dealers should not use any misleading details. They should particularly refrain from advertising a vehicle under an inappropriate heading or providing an incorrect mileage or an incorrect first registration date. Dealers are responsible for the accuracy of the data they use. They should particularly try to avoid incorrect details being entered by accident (e.g. typing errors), and should correct any such errors as soon as they are found.
If it is not explicitly pointed out that a vehicle will need to be first ordered or procured, it should be assumed that the vehicle is in stock and that it is actually available to be viewed at the premises of the dealer advertising it.
It should also be flagged if the vehicle has been used for commercial purposes. These include, e.g., rental cars, taxis and driving school vehicles.
Dealers undertake to provide correct and truthful prices. The price given must comprise the actual gross end price including VAT and all other costs. These particularly include destination charges. So it is not permitted to advertise or make an offer for a vehicle labelled "plus destination charges". This also applies if the destination charges are clearly shown. The costs must, rather, be included in the end price from the very start and entered in the price field provided for this purpose.
The gross end price should include the costs of transport to the dealer's location. If the dealer's location is different to the location of the vehicle, this difference should be clearly indicated in the ad.
These principles apply to all vehicles and particularly to export vehicles unless they are displayed in separate categories (e.g. for export vehicles).
In the case of used vehicles, dealers should basically only use their own pictures or original photos, and in the case of new vehicles, preferably their own pictures which, in the case of vehicles which are in stock, show the advertised vehicle. In the case of new vehicles, where a dealer uses third-party catalogue pictures, this should only occur if the necessary permissions to use copyrighted material have been granted, and the different source (e.g. catalogue picture) of the pictures should be clearly indicated.
The sales process
Dealers should not request any advance payments. The deal should be done on a reciprocal basis. Once the agreement has been successfully concluded, the buyer pays the purchase price and, in return, receives the vehicle, the vehicle keys, plus the registration certificate Parts 1 and 2, or the car's registration document and the proof of ownership letter, or the deregistration certificate.
Advertising marts strive to have dealers and other advertisers comply with legal provisions and the duties of the code. They make the code available for users to access.
Advertising marts will provide their users with easily accessible information about the possible risks involved in buying vehicles plus basic rules of conduct for using the website securely. In particular, they should warn against providing any advance payments and recommend that their users do the deal on a reciprocal basis. They should also indicate other sources of information, such as the website www.sicherer-autokauf.de. Advertising marts should also provide further information for commercial suppliers, explicitly pointing out dealers' obligations.
Definitions of terms and mandatory fields
Advertising marts should use the categories drawn up for this code: new vehicles, used vehicles, single day registrations, employees' cars, demonstration vehicles, classic vehicles, damaged cars. They should make the definitions of these terms available to their users in a suitable way.
Advertising marts should provide, for placing vehicle ads, the following mandatory fields that users must fill in when placing the ad:
Advertising marts should again, explicitly, indicate on the detailed information pages that the prices given must be gross end prices including VAT and all other costs.
Supplier identification and trial period
When dealers are registering on their platforms, advertising marts should request their business registration documents. During a period of at least two months after initial registration (trial period) advertising marts should randomly check dealers' adverts in particular and, if necessary, make personal contact with the dealers.
Reports / sanctions
Advertising marts should take reasonable measures to identify untrustworthy adverts and suppliers, and exclude these from their platforms. In particular, they should keep communication channels open which permit consumers and dealers to immediately report any contravention of the law or of this code. Advertising marts should follow up such reports and remove, as quickly as possible, any ads that clearly contravene the law or this code and which are not corrected upon request.
Within the realms of what is technically feasible and reasonable, advertising marts should deploy technical systems to look specifically for certain types of contravention. They should randomly check whether dealers' details are complete and, where they are incomplete, they should notify the dealers.
Where contraventions occur, advertising marts should take suitable measures against the advertisers who are not acting in compliance with the rules and urge them to comply with the rules in future. Where contraventions continue, advertising marts should increasingly impose sanctions until, eventually, banning the advertiser.
The measures described shall not prevent advertising marts from enhancing their products. In enhancing their products, marts should aim to further improve the promotion of security and quality.
Consumer and dealer associations (associations)
Associations should actively aim to disseminate information to help raise awareness of the obligations that derive from this code in their organisations. Dealer associations should aim to make the acceptance of this code a binding industry standard for all members of their respective organisations, and should take suitable measures to ensure that the code is complied with and put into practice. As far as possible, associations should help members of their organisations to implement the code. Where contraventions of the code occur, associations should notify the dealers and advertising marts concerned and take suitable internal action under the legal requirements to ensure the code is complied with.
Users can only be effectively protected against fraudulent or anti-competitive adverts if they themselves collaborate, if they are informed about security measures and if they take those measures.
Those adopting this code therefore regard it as a general task to keep users informed as well as possible so that they know and comply with, e.g., the following security rules:
Further sources of information for users, such as www.sicherer-autokauf.de are being developed and disseminated.
Cooperating with the authorities and payment system providers
Those adopting this code should strive to reinforce cooperation with supervisory and investigative agencies in order to ensure that illegal activities are effectively prosecuted.
They shall also attempt to get payment system providers to take suitable measures to prevent their services being abused in the course of criminal acts.
Enhancing this code
Those initiating this code aim to regularly enhance the code in order to adjust it to new developments and new forms of misuse. The intention is to regularly exchange practical information about the use of the code and about new methods of misuse that come to light.
Online vehicle trading code definitions
● New vehicle
The vehicle has not yet been registered, either in Germany or elsewhere, and the vehicle is from the latest range of models being traded and is no more than 12 months old.
The vehicle has not yet been registered, either in Germany or elsewhere, and the vehicle is from the range of models that immediately precedes the latest model range being traded and is no more than 12 months old. When naming the car, the previous model's attribute should be referred to.
● Single-day registration
The vehicle is a single-day registration if it has only been registered with a dealer's business with the registration not exceeding 30 days and the vehicle is one of the latest range of models being traded and is no more than 12 months old.
The vehicle is a single-day registration if it has only been registered with a dealer's business with the registration not exceeding 30 days and the vehicle is from the range of models that immediately precedes the latest model range being traded and is no more than 12 months old. When naming the car, the previous model's attribute should be referred to.
A manufacturer's guarantee essentially begins on the first registration date. If the vehicle is not immediately registered when delivered, the guarantee can also begin earlier.
● EU import/re-import
The vehicle was originally not intended for the German market and is being brought back to the German market from another EU country. Such vehicles may have a first registration date elsewhere in the EU (usually to a brand dealer); new vehicles from elsewhere in the EU, too, can be brokered by the dealer in the vehicle mart, i.e. the purchase agreement for the vehicle is made between the German customer and a non-German vehicle dealer under the brokerage of the dealer advertising in the vehicle mart.
● Used vehicle
The vehicle was or is registered and has been used in public transport as intended.
● Demonstration vehicle
The vehicle is registered to a dealer and is only used for demonstration purposes. This will be a used vehicle.
● Employee's car
The vehicle may not be more than 24 months old at the time of the advert and it has been registered uninterrupted for a maximum of 13 months and the registration is restricted to one owner.
● Classic vehicle
A vehicle which is at least 30 years old and meets the requirements to have an H-registration.
A vehicle that is used to transport people and has no more than eight seats in addition to the driver's seat; the categorisation made in the vehicle's papers (Class M1 – see vehicle documents code "J") is crucial.
● Commercial vehicle
A vehicle used to transport goods or people; the categorisation made in the vehicle's papers (Classes M2, M3, N1-3 – see vehicle documents code "J") is crucial; construction machinery, agricultural and forestry machines or vehicles.
● Commercial use
A vehicle that has been used for commercial purposes, particularly rental cars, driving school cars and taxi vehicles.
An engine-powered bike, including trikes and quads
● Export vehicle
A vehicle which is essentially destined for export from the Federal Republic of Germany.
In the "End price" field, prices should be specified in compliance with Article 1 German Pricing Ordinance (PAngV), i.e. in particular gross prices including the VAT that applies in each case plus all other ancillary and accessory costs (e.g. destination charges). Price breakdowns are only permitted in the "Description" section.
These principles apply to all vehicles, including to export vehicles, unless they are displayed in separate categories.
The vehicle's actual mileage should be specified, all else is explicitly restricted (in the case of replacement engines machines with little mileage or where there are other circumstances that indicate that the total mileage does not match the current display on the milometer, such facts should be referred to in the "Description" section).
4. First registration (date)
The vehicle's actual first registration date, with at least the month and year, should be specified (if a vehicle was registered in December 05, the first registration date should be entered as 12/05 and not as 01/06).
5. Details of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
Complete (required by law) details about consumption and emissions in the case of new vehicles and single-day or short registrations. The minimum that must be specified are the fuel consumption in the combined test cycle and the official specific CO2 emissions in the combined test cycle; we recommend specifying the values from the test cycle in town and out of town plus combined and the official specific CO2 emissions in the combined test cycle. The following information is essential:
"Further information on official fuel consumption and official specific CO2 emissions in new cars is available in the "Guidelines on Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions in New Cars", which is available free of charge at all sales outlets and from the "Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH" at www.DAT.de.
6. Vehicle descriptions
Manufacturer guarantee: The manufacturer guarantee is the guarantee given by the manufacturer themselves. A distinction is drawn between this and the vendor's legally regulated warranty for defects. Where relevant, the reduction of the manufacturer's guarantee term, particularly in the case of new EU vehicles, should be indicated if this guarantee is reduced by more than 14 days while an offer is being made for the vehicle.
Damaged vehicle: A vehicle with significant (prior) damage, e.g. because of a traffic accident, fire, hail or water, no matter whether the vehicle is to be sold repaired or not repaired. Appropriate information is required; in the case of damage that has not been repaired, this should be documented with pictures. Normal wear and tear and slight damages do not come under the term "damaged car". Slight damage is only limited external (paintwork) damage, but not other (body) damage, even if there are no further consequences and the work required to repair it is very limited.
Defects: A vehicle with an unrepaired technical, electronic or visual defect, where there is no damage from an accident (e.g. clutch, gears, air-conditioning, etc.); such items should be separately indicated in the vehicle description.