With rental cars at a small price, the "Dexcar" company has attracted customers throughout Europe. But was there a fraud in the game? They determine the prosecutor's office in Bochum and the authorities in Italy and Austria.
By Massimo Bognanni and Georg Wellmann, WDR
The offer looks tempting: "Long-term rental car for a zero monthly fee" or "Never spend money on a new car". The car rental company "Dexcar Autovermietung GmbH" in Essen has apparently struck the hearts of tens of thousands of people – and still recruits customers today.
Since 2014, the start-up has put cars in circulation through a rental system, from small cars to luxury sports cars. If you want to be there, you must first transfer a commission between € 547 and € 1,950 to the company. The Dexcar promise: after waiting up to two years, the customer should get a car for free for 24 months, including vehicle taxes, maintenance, insurance and tire change.
The waiting time of the desired car, so Dexcar, can be shortened: customers enchant others for Dexcar. A well-oiled distribution system, which Dexcar claims to have convinced about 37,000 customers. The company is active in France, Italy, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands and Romania.
In vain waiting for the new machine
The problem: numerous customers of "Dexcar" wait in vain for two years after the conclusion of the contract on their car. After the search for WDR and "Süddeutsche Zeitung" identifies the priority prosecutor for white-collar crime in Bochum against several corporate executives suspected of fraud and criminal proceedings. A spokesman for the authorities states that "a large number of customers" throughout Germany is influenced by the business model. He does not want to name concrete numbers.
Behind the company there are two Italian brothers. The company headquarters is still in Essen, at least on paper. If you visit the German company headquarters, you will only find abandoned offices. "Dexcar" justifies this with the fact that the entire company is run by software. A company of Minsk deals with the software "under the optimization of the cost structure".
In Austria, consumer advocates have been skeptical for a long time since many victims contacted them. They are based on several thousand victims. In the Alpine Republic, the prosecutor investigates in Feldkirch.
Investigators searched for commercial premises
In Italy, the public prosecutor's office in Biella immediately followed the "Dexcar" operators connected. As part of Operation Car Dream, Italian investigators had already searched their premises in 2016. "Dexcar" launched an appeal against the seizure of two accounts at Sparkasse Essen and Postbank Dortmund as well as numerous cars. However, investigations into a potentially illegal business model continue.
When asked about the survey, "Dexcar" presented a letter from an accountant stating that the company operates an "economically and financially stable system" which, in a sense, could also be described as innovative for the company. Europe. It is based on the fact that "Dexcar" buys new cars directly from the manufacturer at particularly advantageous prices.
Upon joint request of WDR and "Süddeutsche Zeitung"A responsible person replied that the system was legally permitted. Mathematicians and computer scientists have succeeded. By May 2018, around 550 cars had been delivered to customers. Furthermore, pre-orders have already paid 5 million euros in fuel vouchers. Whether there are delays, it was due to a smear campaign. Therefore, one has already repaid its customers to numerous customers. He knew nothing about Bochum's investigations.
Investigators: few machines delivered to customers
In Italy, Dexcar has already been fined € 400,000 by the Competition Authority for its business model. Investigators have estimated that in Italy alone 22,000 customers would have paid more than ten million euros to "Dexcar", but only 200 cars were actually delivered to customers.
On the contrary, "Dexcar" has filed claims against the Italian president. The punishment of the guardians of the competition is based on "no evidence" that the competition authority "has not carried out any investigation", writes a "Dexcar" manager at the request of WDR and SZ.
Ponzi or Network Marketing?
The forces of the order and the European Consumer Center (ECC) of Bolzano continue to suspect that "Dexcar" can manage an illegal pyramid scheme. Here, waiting customers are always served only with the money of new customers. In a snowball system – like a snowball rolling down – the mountain of obligations is getting bigger. If at some point not enough new customers are found, the entire system collapses. In numerous pyramid schemes in the past, the same operators had made good use of the total investor.
Whether Dexcar operates such a system or simply a "network marketing", as the "Dexcar" managers call, investigators in Germany, Austria and Italy now clarify.
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