Understanding warranties and liabilities – it is your right as a car owner

How confident are you as a motorist that you understand your rights with regards to your vehicle and the servicing, maintenance and possibly even the buying and selling thereof? Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says unfortunately many motorists are not aware of their rights and this can often lead to misunderstandings and possible exploitation. “As a champion of the rights of motorists and service providers in the motor industry, we believe there needs to be an increased awareness of consumer rights. It ensures better communication between consumers and service providers and ethical trading,” he says.

Sections 56 and 57 of the Consumer Protection Act focus on warranties. Section 57 relates to the warranty on repaired goods. According to the Act a retailer must guarantee reconditioned or new parts installed during any repair or maintenance work for a period of three (3) months. “We encourage all RMI members to provide a warranty of six (6) months for workmanship applied which we believe sets us apart in the industry,” says Olivier.

Section 56 speaks to implied warranty of quality. It is implied in the section that, where exceptions don’t apply, products should carry a warranty of at least six months. The consumer may return goods to the retailer if the goods do not comply with the requirements of this section. In brief, the consumer may return the goods within six months without paying a penalty fee. The risk rests with the supplier. The retailer should either repair, replace or refund the product at the sole direction of the customer. Should the consumer be found responsible for the product failure i.e. misuse or abuse, the retailer will be exonerated from any further liability. In the case of the purchase of an item, warranties will only apply in the event that the item is fitted by qualified persons, and often accredited RMI members. If this is not done, the warranty will become void.

Goods purchased at an auction are subject to different conditions, which the consumer should be aware of. New and used purchases are treated in an almost identical way in terms of the implied six-month warranty. Only fair wear and tear may differ on used goods unless the goods are sold subject to a specific condition as set out in Section 55 of the Act.

“Another section worth being familiar with is Section 61 which focusses on liability on damages,” says Chanique Rautenbach, Associate at Barnard Inc Attorneys.  According to this section a consumer can claim liability when injury or sickness sets in due to the retailer’s doing. Liability can also be claimed in cases involving physical damage to movable or immovable property and where damage or harm has resulted from not enough instructions or warnings being given.

“Your vehicle is the second largest investment you will make after a house purchase. It is important that you understand that you have rights when it comes to your vehicle and that you can exercise your rights. These rights are in place to protect consumers and businesses. While 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 advise motorists and service providers to call on the counsel of legal experts in the matter,” concludes Olivier.