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That does not mean reading, writing and arithmetic as per the school syllabus.

It means: Repair, replace or refund.

These are your 3 choices you have in the event of a material defect in an item that you have bought.

Here is a recent case study.

Mr A, bought a brand new high performance SUV, from a dealership in Umhlanga, KZN; which for these purposes, we will refer to as the ABC dealership.

Six weeks after the date of sale; the power steering on the vehicle failed; making it extremely difficult to actually even turn the steering wheel.

Mr A took it back to the dealership and without even telling him anything about his rights in terms of the CPA (Consumer Protection Act No 68 or 2008), the dealership simply told Mr A that they would examine it, which they did,; and then told Mr A that they had replaced the steering rack and the vehicle was now perfect.

Mr A, however, was not entirely happy with this action or the explanation given; and he told the dealer principle at ABC that the vehicle was a very expensive; and also a high powered vehicle; and that he was not satisfied with the part simply being replaced; as this clearly compromised the safety aspect and features of the vehicle.

He wanted a replacement vehicle which he said was his right in terms of section 56(2) of the CPA; in his view.  Repair, Replace or Refund; the three R’s; which, is the consumer’s choice and right, in terms of the provisions of section 56(2) the CPA.

The ABC dealership told him categorically to his face that he had no right to a replacement vehicle and actually wrote him a letter to this effect.

The regional sales manager wrote the letter and stated his reasons as follows: “Vehicles are man-made objects and are subject to the same frailties as man.”

This was the dealerships rationale as to why Mr A was not entitled to a replacement vehicle. The dealership went on to say: “Regarding the replacement of the vehicle, we reserve the right to repair the vehicle and this right forms part of the sales agreement.” They refused to replace the vehicle; and suggested that if he was unhappy with their decision he could always refer the matter to the Motor Industry Ombudsman.

At no time did they relate to him or discuss with Mr A the provisions of section 56(2) of the CPA and in our view they had both a moral and a legal duty to do so; as he had raised the issue of a replacement vehicle himself.

Mr A then referred the matter to the Ombudsman for the Motor Vehicle Industry.

The Ombudsman, in essence, then applied a very strange interpretation of the definition of “defective goods”; and in so doing; agreed with the dealership; that it, in these circumstances, had the choice to repair the vehicle’s faulty steering rack.

This decision, in our view, was clearly wrong; and does not give us or the public in general for that matter, much faith in the decisions and recommendations of the Ombudsman for the Motor Industry, when it comes to consumers’ grievances regarding defective motor cars, their components and parts. To be honest it; smacks of an old boys club; looking after one another.

The reason we feel that the decision of the Ombudsman is incorrect; is as follows:

The definition of a “defect” as contained in section 53 of the CPA reads: “A defect means any material imperfection in the manufacture of the goods or components… that renders the goods less acceptable than persons generally would be reasonably entitled to, or expect in the circumstances; or…. Any characteristic of the goods or components that render them less useful, practical or safe than persons generally would be reasonable entitled to expect.”

This definition is very wide and comprehensive; and although a bit long-winded, in our view, definitely includes all motor car dealerships and all motor cars sold by both new and second hand dealers; and also all their components and parts. It would also definitely include the faulty steering in Mr A’s very expensive SUV.

If you have experienced difficulties with enforcing your legal rights around the 3 Rs; contact us at The Legal Advice Office at or send an email to one of our email addresses; either This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can also phone us on 082-0932304 and then speak personally to Hugh; our senior legal consultant.

Should you wish to comment on this or any other legal topic; just send us an e-mail; and we will respond within 48 hours; as stated above.

Thank you.

The Legal Advice Office Team.


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Legal Advice Office

South Africa

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