Car dealers levying illegal charges on buyers: PIL

New Delhi: Car dealers in the capital appear to be heading towards a showdown with the Delhi government, which issued notices to retailers warning against levying "illegal" charges on buyers. After a PIL came up in Delhi High Court, the Transport Department has issued notices to 124 car dealers in the city asking them not to levy charges for handling, loading and unloading, a move vehemently opposed by the traders.

The issuance of notice came after the court took note of the PIL filed by lawyer C Rajaram who alleged that car dealers were fleecing customers by levying illegal charges. He also sought a CBI inquiry into the purported nexus between transport officials and retailers.

According to the PIL, the "illegal charges" vary between Rs 3,500 and Rs 25,000 per vehicle, depending on the manufacturer and the cost of the vehicle.
It has also sought a direction to 69 car dealers in the city to refund the money "illegally collected" from the vehicle owners. "We are not criminals. We are only taking money which is duly authorised by the manufacturing units," Gulshan Ahuja, Secretary General of Federation of Automobile Dealers` Association, told PTI.

"As additional proof, we have also sent a letter from the manufacturing units to the Transport Department. It is unfortunate that instead of defending us in the court, it has issued a notice warning us," he added.

Transport Department officials said they lacked the mechanism to stop the car dealers from levying additional charges while dismissing the allegation that officials and car dealers were engaging in underhand dealings. A top Transport Department official said, "the petitoner and the car dealers can say what they want. We will respond to them in the High Court".

On January 4, a bench of acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw allowed the car dealers` association to be impleaded as a party to the PIL and listed it for further hearing on January 25. "This is a Rs 550-crore scam that has been taking place since 1999 and the Transport Department has done little to stop this skulduggery despite being aware of it," Rajaram alleged.

"When the High Court summoned the Transport Department to respond to the petition, officials claimed they had no mechanism to check these dubious elements, so why were they quiet for so long?" he said.

In its notice, the government has warned that breach of terms and conditions in Motor Vehicle Act would result in withdrawal of trade certificates, cancellation of self-registration powers and imposition of penalty.

Car dealers in the capital have reacted sharply to the notice. "These allegations are ridiculous, we are doing it as per the company policy and are authorised by the manufacturers to charge customers. The PIL is baseless and has no truth in it," said Ashok Sachdev, a Toyota car dealer in Moti Nagar.