Be clear with terms and conditions of warranty

2015-09-01 10:29
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Lyse Comins (File)

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CONSUMERS can’t always demand a refund or a replacement when things go wrong with a new vehicle and those who don’t service their cars at the right time and place can’t demand manufacturers keep their end of the deal regarding warranties.

These were just some of the issues highlighted in the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA), Johan van Vreden’s 2014 annual report released at the weekend, which revealed his office received 53 807 calls — 203 per day — from consumers and the motor industry, a 30% spike since 2013.

Most calls were received after the Department of Trade and Industry accredited the ombudsman as an official alternative dispute resolution scheme under the Consumer Protection Act, which made it compulsory for all motor vehicle service providers and manufacturers to come under his legal jurisdiction.

Consumers mostly called to follow up on their cases, to seek advice on the CPA and find out how to lodge a complaint, while manufacturers, dealers, importers and service workshops sought advice on how to register with the ombudsman and pay their annual levy.

His office received around 1 000 complaints a month and closed an average of 800 cases per month, ruling in favour of consumers 40% of the time.

The top five consumer complaints received were about engine trouble (18,93%), poor service (23,30%), wheels (7,87%), gearbox (7,49%) and body (6,83%), according to the report. The value of the complaints received, MIOSA chief operating officer Leanne Lubbe said yesterday, remained stable at around R172,5 million.

“The cases which have not been resolved yet are cases where an assistance request form is received incomplete from the consumer or the responses from the dealers are outstanding. Dealer responses started out slow but are improving as the automotive industry is becoming aware that it is necessary to co-operate with the MIOSA, as it is now a legal requirement,” Lubbe said.

Case studies in the annual report showed how the CPA and the ombudsman are working for consumers but also revealed how he is sticking to his long-held legal view that if parts of a brand-new vehicle prove faulty the extent of the problem might not be sufficient reason for consumers to demand a replacement or a refund.

In one case, a consumer bought a brand-new car and experienced steering problems, which the dealership repaired under warranty terms and conditions. However, the consumer demanded a replacement vehicle.

“The MIOSA ruled that since the vehicle was repaired by an approved dealership, the vehicle had been restored back to the manufacturer’s specifications and as such the MIOSA could not support the owner’s expectations,” the report said.

In a similar case, a consumer wanted to cancel a deal after his car experienced electrical faults, which turned out to be part of a manufacturer’s recall campaign. The problem was resolved with a software upgrade to the vehicle.

However, in another case Van Vreden ruled in favour of a consumer who bought a car, found it had a faulty exhaust and gave the dealership the opportunity to repair it. He then discovered that the car had no airbags, a standard safety feature of the vehicle, and complained to the ombudsman that he wanted to cancel the deal. Van Vreden ruled that in terms of Section 56 of the CPA, the dealer had to cancel the sale agreement and refund the consumer, less the cost of use of the vehicle.

When it comes to vehicle services his rulings offered insight on the importance of reading and understanding the terms and conditions of warranty agreements and ensuring services are done at the right time and place.

In one case the owner of a new vehicle had the first service seven months after the interval specified by the manufacturer, which as a gesture of goodwill, approved it. But when the owner wanted the second service done six months late, the manufacturer declined to perform it under warranty.

Similarly, a consumer had his car serviced at a non-authorised dealership. But when it experienced engine trouble he took it to an authorised dealership, which rejected his claim for a warranty repair.

In both cases the ombudsman ruled against the consumers because they had not stuck to the terms and conditions of their vehicles’ warranty.

The MIOSA can be contacted at 086 116 4672 or info@miosa.co.za or visit www.miosa.co.za to download a complaint form.

• Send your consumer complaints to consumer@3i.co.za

Read more on:    consumer

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