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Why the car price you see is definitely not what you will pay | Irish Times

If you order a new jumper, a pair of jeans, some DVDs, a book, or even some household cleaning products from almost any online source, chances are that you will not be charged extra for delivery.

Generally, once you’re spending more than a nominal amount (usually between €50 and €100), you won’t have to pay any extra for shipping.

With cars, of course, that has never been the case. The price you see is most definitely not the price you pay, and ‘delivery and related charges’ are always extra. The gap between a retail price and a dealer price can be as much as €1,500.

Why? Well, part of it is down to consumer law, some is pure tradition, and the rest is because these charges do provide a critical lifeline for car dealers working on wafer-thin margins. What that all means for the consumer is debatable at best.

The consumer protection law goes back a long way, and the basis of it is that if a car manufacturer was to try to impose a fixed on-the-road price, inclusive of dealer charges, then that would be considered anti-competitive.

However, it does seem a little odd that given all the loopholes and frequent breaches in consumer protection, that such pricing strategies are held in contempt by the authorities.

After all, on-the-road pricing is very common in other markets, and there’s a strong argument that the consumer is given a much more transparent price when it’s allowed. You wouldn’t expect a shop in Cork to charge you more or less for a Mars Bar than a shop in Dundalk.

The CCPC doesn’t see it that way, however, saying: “Consumer law requires traders to provide the total cost, including extras, of a product to a consumer before they buy. In the specific instance of when a manufacturer is advertising a car for sale, the manufacturer can only advertise the recommended retail price and state that delivery and related charges will be extra.

“If a consumer then decides to buy that car, they should be provided with the total price by the dealer before they buy. Auxiliary costs such as motor insurance, tax etc, are not dealt with specifically under consumer protection law.

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Why the car price you see is definitely not what you will pay.