Ian McAllister, chairman of Ford of Britain, has warned that new regulations designed to protect consumer rights could wreck Europe's embryonic online car selling industry. He believes the threat lies in a European Commission directive on internet trading.

The Distance Selling directive would allow anyone buying goods via the internet to get a full refund if they return them within seven days of purchase. McAllister is demanding exemption for cars on the grounds that their value plunges dramatically once they have been driven around for a week. He observes that cars, along with other products like CDs and software, had been exempted under past legislation.

A previous Ford UK promise (a "no quibble bring your vehicle back" guarantee) had been dropped because of the high costs involved; some buyers driving their new vehicle for 1,000 miles before returning it for a full refund despite the fact that the car's value had dropped significantly.

Ford, together with other car manufacturers, is pushing for exemption from the directive, which had been scheduled for adoption by 4 June. However, concerns raised by the UK Department of Trade and Industry have caused implementation to be postponed. According to a DTI spoke, further consultation is continuing, with a final decision expected by the end of the year.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)