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Motor vehicles are one of our most prized possessions and yet many of us have nightmares when we buy a motor vehicle from a dealership and we have numerous problems with the vehicle we bought.

This happens often; but there is a solution.

Over the past month; we have had numerous queries from consumers who have bought cars from second hand car dealers; and who are a short while later, discovering various serious defects in those vehicles.

This clearly is a problem and the dealers, by and large, do not abide by the law or otherwise seek to interpret in a manner which is beneficial to them and not the customer.

Let us get one thing very straight; and ALL of us, as consumers and customers, should be aware of this fact. The Consumer Protection Act, Act No 68 of 2008(CPA); which became law on the 1st April 2011 has radically shifted the balance of power from the supplier to the customer when it comes to the question of defective and damaged goods.

Let us also make this fact clear:

Motor vehicles are, as far as we are concerned, covered by sections 55 and 56 of the Act; despite the argument by both dealers and the Ombudsman that the vehicle consists of components and that they need only replace/repair a component; if it is defective. That is true. That is however not the case if the vehicle itself, and not just one or two components, are or were defective on the date of the sale.

Since the Act came into effect; consumers have had the choice of remedy if the item they purchase breaks/malfunctions, is defective or stops working as it was intended to; but this choice and your action must take place within six (6) months of the date of purchase. You no longer have to accept the supplier’s first choice of a repair to the item; and the supplier or service provider cannot dictate to you what you should choose. It is your choice and you decide whether you want a REFUND, a REPLACEMENT item or a REPAIR. Do not let the supplier decide for you. It is your choice in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. This also applies to big purchase items like motor cars, electrical appliances and expensive flat screen TVs.

This current state of affairs is a massive boost for the protection of consumers; and retailers are understandably reeling from the consequences of the Act; and try to avoid liability for replacing or refunding a customer; as that is a lot more expensive for them than simply repairing the item in question.

In stands to reason therefore that as one of the industries with the most to lose is this regard; the motor industry and motor trade generally, given the high price of its products; has even argued that the sections of the Consumer Protection Act which cover defective goods (mainly sections 55 and 56) don’t really apply to them; and do their best in any given set of circumstances to duck and dive their way out of responsibility to their customers and almost invariable try and get the customer to agree to a repair without ever explaining to the consumer their legal rights in terms of the CP Act. We literally deal with these situations on a daily basis. Their argument is entirely wrong. There is nothing in the Act that excludes motor vehicles from the provisions of section 55 and 56 of the Act.

We have also had to deal with motor vehicle dealers who tell us flat out that the CPA does not apply to them at all; and even their attorneys have contacted us and written e-mails/letters to us advising us that the provisions of the CP Act do not apply to their clients; as they motor car dealers. That is nonsense! The Act does apply to all motor vehicle manufacturers and dealers and there is no question about that. It is a fact.

We trust that the above clarifies the situation for all our clients and that you are all better aware of your consumer rights as they pertain especially to high priced items which always seem to attract attention because of the potential consequences of our exercising our rights in terms of the Act.

About our author:

Hugh Pollard (Legal Consultant), has a BA LLB and 41 years’ experience in the legal field. 22 years as a practicing attorney and conveyancer; and 19 years as a Legal Consultant.

082-0932304 (Hugh’s Cell Number)

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Legal Advice Office

South Africa

Kandelaar Street, Vermont, Hermanus
Phone: +27 (0) 82 093 2304