Rogue Traders: Burton car hire

Young people get a raw deal when it comes to getting on four wheels. Car insurance for a newly qualified driver can cost thousands of pounds, and a lot of car hire firms won’t even deal with young drivers. But Burton Car Hire Ltd, based in Dartford, is offering cheap car hire to under 21 year olds, which seems like the perfect solution. The problem is that their business is a car crash waiting to happen.

Rogue Traders: Burton car hire

Published 2 October 2013

Twenty-year-old Ollie Fitzke hired a car to go to a festival using Burton Car Hire. He paid for a four-day hire, placing a £300 deposit. However, the Ford KA he was given was in poor condition, with scratches and dents all over it.

Ollie told us: ‘The worst part was trying to join a motorway… changing from 3rd to 4th [gear]… taking my foot off the clutch and having a complete loss of power because the clutch was stuck in.’

When Ollie returned the car Burton claimed that there were new scratches and dents on the bodywork. They demanded that he pay a £1750 excess charge. Ollie refused to pay and was threatened with court action. He hasn’t heard from the company since and has never been refunded his deposit.

What Ollie didn’t know is that he was dealing with the somewhat notorious Burmis family. Mum Samantha Burmis is currently in jail for perverting the course of justice while her daughter Nina has convictions for fraud. Along with Samantha’s husband Peter and son Richard, they run a hire car business that trades under various names - including Burton Car Hire Ltd, BCH Rentals and HBC Rentals.

In order to catch them in action the Rogue Traders team arranged to send younger members of the team undercover. Undercover twenty one year old researcher Georgina hired a car from Burton Car Hire. She was met by Peter Burmis though he was calling himself Dave.

He gave her the very same car they had given to Ollie. The team soon realised that the hub cap falling off on the first journey was the least of their problems.

Mechanic expert John Dabek carried out an inspection on the car and found thinning brake pads and a leaking exhaust. John informed the team that the car shouldn’t be on the road, and that it was unsafe to drive.

These problems should have been picked up by an MOT. Considering that the KA was at that point four and half years old, it was due its first MOT over a year ago. But the Rogue Traders team has discovered that it’s never had one – making it illegal to drive.

When undercover researcher Georgina returned the car she pretended that her Dad was a mechanic. She informed Peter Burmis of the concerns about the car, but he brushed them off, saying that if the car were dangerous they wouldn’t have hired it out. Despite the warnings, he didn’t fix any of the problems before putting it back on the road with another young driver at the wheel.

And how did the Rogue Traders team know that?

Less than 24 hours later Peter Burmis hired it out in the same condition to Becky, another of the undercover researchers. Incidentally, Becky didn’t have the paper part of her licence with her. This meant that by law he should have checked her record with the DVLA to ensure that she would be covered under Burton’s insurance. However, Peter said that he couldn’t be bothered and gave Becky the car anyway. Luckily as she didn’t have any penalty points she was insured.

To check that the incident with the Ford KA was not a one-off, the team needed to hire one more car from Burton.

Another undercover researcher, Sachelle, hired out a Chevrolet Matiz from Peter Burmis - it was covered in scratches.

John Dabek’s closer inspection alerted the team to an even bigger problem.

‘This car’s got history Matt [Allwright]. It's been hit in the back end, quite a significant collision, enough to make it a Category C write off.’

The crash must have been really bad for an insurance company to think it wasn’t worth repairing. But someone tried to do it anyway – and that someone did it really badly.

John informed the team that it would fail an MOT on three counts. And to make matters worse, they discovered that the car’s tax expired over three months ago and that it was not insured.

When Sachelle returned the Chevrolet Matiz she was met by Peter Burmis’ stepson Richard Blackwood - the official director of Burton Car Hire Ltd. He insisted that the car was taxed.

The Rogue Traders team knew for a fact that it wasn’t, so what else did he lie about? He explained Sachelle’s £300 deposit would be paid back within 14 days but it wasn’t. In fact none of the undercover researchers were paid their deposits back in time, and were only refunded the money after chasing the company.

Matt Allwright confronted Peter Burmis over the allegations outside Burton Car Hire’s office. He denied that the cars he was hiring out were not roadworthy. He also denied being Peter Burmis, who he said he had ‘never heard of’. He did however put Richard Blackwood on the phone, who promised to improve the state of Burton’s fleet.

Company Response

 

Following BBC Matthew Allwright making a shocking appearance on our premises regarding the condition of our cars - I was shocked to hear that Burton Car Hire’s cars were not going out on the road legally. I, the director, had taken a hands off approach and allowed the office staff to deal with the customers.

Following the revelation made by the BBC I have checked all our cars for road tax and road worthiness to ensure that no vehicle will ever go out without meeting the road safety standards. All cars are repaired at a private independent garage and when a customer reports a problem the cars will be taken there for an investigation, to ensure that we are not putting any renter or other road users at risk.

While I can’t comment on individual cases, renters who damage our cars are subject to losing their deposit as per their agreement in which they sign and agree the damages marked on the car before the car leaves the car lot.

 

Elsewhere on BBC Watchdog

Send Your Story Send Your Story

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, we'd love to hear from you.

Matt Allwright investigates... Matt Allwright investigates...

Find more reports on rogue traders that the team have been hunting and confronting for giving customers a raw deal.

Consumer advice Consumer advice

Discover ways to avoid being scammed and find useful consumer tips and hints.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss