Very few industries or business activities escape the controlling hand of regulation to protect the unwary or unsuspecting.

Vehicle leasing brokers, however, happen to be one of the few exceptions to this assertion. Academy Leasing’s message to car fleet operators is, consequently, a strongly-worded caveat emptor.

Many small businesses, in particular, have had their fingers burnt for not carrying out a little due diligence.

Horror stories range from misleading headline prices that are reneged upon, stock vehicles promised but not made available for weeks on end to deposits eagerly taken but not returned when deals go awry.

Great efforts have been made by the BVRLA over recent years to warn of the dangers of dealing with unknown or unaccredited brokers. However, the trade association’s voice has all too frequently fallen on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, it is a relatively simple process for individuals to set up as car leasing brokers.

And with the UK economy only now starting to drag itself out of the global financial malaise, desperate deals have regularly been struck by the unscrupulous who care nothing for a customer’s financial loss or who pay little heed to their future fleet requirements.

For those with limited vehicle leasing experience, a broker’s service should involve genuine fleet management consultancy throughout the term of a lease contract – not simply taking orders for new cars when profit opportunities arise.

This consultancy might involve, for example, upfront advice on damage recharges or undertaking contract rewrites, extensions or early terminations, during the term of a lease, to save the customer money.

So how can businesses ensure they’re leasing vehicles through a reputable broker?

As with any online shopping experience, appearances can prove deceptive – companies should look beyond fancy website designs that suggest professionalism or which boast enticing prices that may or may not exist.

Businesses should instead examine more closely who they are dealing with.

They should question the credentials of any broker requesting a large upfront holding deposit before any vehicles are delivered.

Businesses should look for company registration and VAT numbers, look for evidence of Consumer Credit Licences and BVRLA membership.

They should ensure their preferred broker is accessible, has a bona fide trading address, a complaints procedure and deals directly with a range of different funders and dealer groups to meet their specific requirements and deliver the best deals.

Failure to make just a few simple checks can lead to serious financial repercussions. Choose wisely however and valuable long term fleet management partnerships can be forged.