Knowing your basic rights as a motorist can be the game-changer when it comes to the servicing and even buying and selling of a vehicle, says CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), Jakkie Olivier.
“Unfortunately, we often come across cases where motorists have little to no understanding of the basic rights as captured in the Consumer Protection Act. It is important to understand that these rights are in place to protect consumers and businesses. There are several sections within the Act that are particularly pertinent to the buying, maintenance and repairs of vehicles. These sections need to be read within the context of the Act as a whole to ensure there are no misinterpretations. We always advice motorists and service providers to call on the counsel of legal experts in the matter,” says Olivier.
The right to a quality service to be rendered, for example, is covered in Section 54. This section stipulates that a retailer must inform you ahead of time if the repair will take more time than initially agreed upon. “You have the right to quality servicing within an agreed upon timeframe. If this is not the case you are within your right to escalate the matter with the retailer,” explains Chanique Rautenbach, Associate at Barnard Inc Attorneys.
The section also covers damage to your vehicle. In the case where the retailer has damaged the vehicle during the repair or service, it is the responsibility of the retailer to remedy the situation. This covers any and all damages that may have occurred. “It is important to note that the consumer is not entitled to have the vehicle repaired to a condition that is better than what prevailed prior to the damage occurring,” she adds.
When buying a vehicle, according to Section 55, a product, in this case a vehicle, should be able to deliver service or perform the task for which it was created for. This means that the vehicle should be of good quality, free of any defects and be in an operating condition. It must also be durable and useable for a reasonable time period, unless it was bought at an auction, in which case a different set of requirements apply. Be aware of any exclusions that have been recorded on the offer to purchase, as these exclusions will not be covered by any warranty or guarantee.
Rautenbach explains that consumers must remain mindful of the fact that, when buying used goods (vehicles, parts or accessories), these goods will be subject to a warranty that covers these goods after fair wear and tear, considering the age and mileage of these goods. In addition, consumers should be aware that goods, such as electrical equipment or parts, will usually have a warranty condition that requires them to be fitted by a qualified professional and, often, an accredited RMI member.
Did you know that retailers have to return old or replaced parts to the vehicle owner after a service? This is according to Section 67 of the Act. “The point of this section is to encourage transparency when it comes to the replacing of parts,” says Rautenbach. “As a consumer you have the right to ask for the old, replaced parts.” It is important to note, however, that the section excludes this obligation if the work is done under warranty, insurance claim or paid for by a third party.
“As an organisation that champions the rights of motorists and service providers in the motor industry, we want to see an increased awareness of these consumer rights. It ensures better communication between consumers and service providers and ethical trading,” concludes Olivier.