By Max Clarke, the car buying website famed recently for its aggressive marketing campaign, is facing enforcement action from the Office of Fair Trading over misleading online valuations.

An OFT investigation found 96% of customers received less than their initial online quotations, sometimes by ‘hundreds of pounds’.

Consumers were given the impression that they would be paid the online valuation if the company's onsite inspection matched the condition entered by the seller online. But once at the appointment, some customers found that other factors reduced the final price from the headline valuation, including 'market conditions'. Vehicle inspectors were set targets regarding the purchase of vehicles, sometimes to reduce the valuation offered by up to 25 per cent, upon reappraisal.

Furthermore, sellers were given the impression that the online quote was valid for seven days, so were encouraged to make an appointment quickly. The OFT was concerned that, once at's premises, consumers might accept a reduced valuation, even if they were unhappy with it, because of the time and expense already incurred, or because their personal circumstances meant they needed a quick sale.

“Selling personal possessions through the internet is increasingly popular, especially in these tough economic times. But it's important that the headline figure isn't chipped away at by the buyer, because it makes it very difficult for consumers to shop around and find the best deal”, said Cavendish Elithorn, Senior Director of the OFT's Consumer Group.