The Consumer Protection Act (CPA), No 68 of 2008, came into operation at midnight on the 31st March 2011.
It has changed consumer law in the RSA in many important respects.
It is also an extraordinary piece of legislation protecting consumers from all sorts of previously bad business practices.
We, at The Legal Advice Office, get a lot of enquiries from clients and consumers who feel that they have been taken for a ride by dealerships especially when it comes to the poor quality of motor vehicles that they have purchased from those dealerships.
This Act of Parliament (CPA) is the law and applies to both new and second hand vehicles.
A recent example of such a situation was of a client who had bought a second hand car from a dealer in Pretoria and it turned out to be a real problem vehicle.
What are your rights and how exactly does the CPA protect a buyer of both a new and a second hand car?
The CPA which came into operation, as stated above, at the beginning of April 2011 has some far reaching implications for the buyers of both new and second hand vehicles.
For most of us; a motor car is our second most expensive item after our homes and buying a car can be an emotional and stressful experience irrespective of your budget.
The CPA was specifically brought into being to protect consumers.
Buying a second hand car has long been associated with less than honest dealings, with the “voetstoots” or “as is” clause used as a fail- safe to previously protect an unscrupulous sales person, dealership or seller from any potential comeback.
Now things have changed as the CPA states that an official car dealer may not now sell a vehicle, new or second hand, “ voetstoots” or “as is”, irrespective of whether they disclose what’s wrong with it or not.
Nonetheless we often see these clauses in dealership sales documentation.
A vehicle can be sold voetstoots only in a private sale; but that still does not mean that the buyer is left high and dry.
In order for a car to be validly sold “voetstoots’ by a private seller; a full list of all known defects has to be provided to the buyer by the seller.
You as the buyer would then in the sale agreement have to sign and acknowledge the presence of those defects. Any defect outside that list is not covered by the “voetstoots” clause.
If, when buying a vehicle from a dealership, any defects are discovered within six (6) months of the sale you have the right to insist on repair, replacement or a refund.
This is your choice as the buyer. The dealer has no choice in the matter.
This clearly does not mean that you can return the vehicle because it doesn’t smell like a new car or some other silly/immaterial excuse/ reason.
There are clear rules on when you can return a vehicle, the most critical being when there a “material defect, failure or hazard that is not due to any alterations you have made to the vehicle after buying it.
The best defence you have against purchasing a potential lemon is to arm yourself with the correct information. If you are in the market for a used vehicle; make sure that you know your CPA rights and then to enforce those rights.
A word of warning when buying a car. There are any number of identical vehicles to choose from on the market at any one time; and, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is!
The process of exercising your rights to a repair, replacement or refund is a formal legal process and should be dealt with properly and professionally.
The same intervention procedures apply to the purchase of all major consumer items in addition to motor vehicles.
You would be strongly advised to contact The Legal Advice Office to attend to this intervention process for you and not to attempt to do so on your own and you do not normally have the experience or expert knowledge to do so.
If you have experienced difficulties with buying a new or used car in the last six months; contact The Legal Advice Office at www.legaladviceoffice.co.za or at one of our email addresses; either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Should you wish to comment on this or any other legal topic; just send us an e-mail; and we will respond.
The Legal Advice Office Team.