Dodgy dealers could wind up in jail for odometer scams

Jail time could be on the cards for dodgy dealers in South Australia who wind back odometers on used cars amid warnings digital devices are increasingly being used to scam motorists.

Any dealer found guilty of winding back a car odometer could be jailed for up to two years or face a maximum fine of $30,000, under legislation to go before state parliament before the end of the year.

For those found to be operating while unlicensed, the proposed penalty for a third or subsequent offence would be increased from one to two years behind bars with the maximum fine climbing from $100,000 to $250,000.

Fines for a first or second offence will rise from $100,000 to $150,000.

The changes would give SA some of the toughest penalties across the country. 

Only Queensland and NSW impose jail sentences for unlicensed dealing and only Queensland and Victoria have jail as an option for winding back an odometer.

They also come amid warnings from the Royal Automobile Association that motorists need to take extra care when buying a used car considering recent developments in technology.

"When buying a used car the odometer is one of the most obvious ways to gauge how much life is left in the car and if that has been tampered with then you might be buying a car that may have expensive repairs waiting for you," RAA mobility expert Mark Borlace said.

"As more cars have digital odometers, there’s a host of new devices infiltrating the market that scammers are using, but most can be detected."

Consumer and Business Affairs Minister Andrea Michaels said there had also been an increase in complaints about unlicensed dealers selling from home through sites such as Facebook Marketplace and engaging in dodgy practices including selling with false papers.

In the past financial year, six people were convicted for tampering with odometers, including four who were unlicensed.

"As cost-of-living pressures continue to bite, many people are turning to second-hand car sales as a more budget-friendly way of purchasing a vehicle," Ms Michaels said.

"And while most dealers do the right thing, there are unscrupulous operators out there who’ll try to take advantage of people by engaging in dodgy practices."

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