Has your car had a ‘haircut’?

Hotline has been inundated with complaints from buyers of used vehicles who discovered that the odometer of their precious possession had been tampered with.

Odometer tampering happens when the speedometer of the vehicle is reversed to reflect a low mileage. “Unscrupulous sellers could turn the speedometer back to make the kilometres appear less. In the industry, it’s called giving the car a hair cut. It does happen, but not that often. If you can prove it, it is obviously fraud,” said Garry Ronald, spokesperson of the Automobile Association of South­­ ­Africa (AASA).

Lucious Bodibe, senior adjudicator at the office of the Motor ­Industry Ombudsman (MIO), said there were circumstances where the speedometer of the ­vehicle could be changed. He said even though there was currently no regulation to deal with this practice, dealers must still disclose to the consumer if there were any changes made to the vehicle.

“Replacements of the odometer usually happens while the vehicle is still under warranty. At times if there’s an electronic fault, the speedometer could be replaced.”

Bodibe said car buyers should look at the year the car was registered in against the mileage on the clock to check for tampering.

“Vehicles usually make an ­average of 25 000km a year. This figure should help give you an idea of the mileage you can expect on a car,” said Bodibe.

He said buyers who have been tricked and bought cars whose mileage had been tampered with can approach the ombudsman.

“If a complaint is lodged, the ombudsman can instruct the dealer to treat the consumer as they would have, had the mileage not been tampered with. This can ­reduce the price as the value of the vehicle is usually determined by its mileage,” he said.

Bodibe said the MIO could also instruct the dealer to offer an extended warranty to the customer if they still want to keep the car.

“Buyers should also write down the vehicle identification number of the car they are interested in and take it to the manufacturer to verify details of the car,” he said.

For any car-related complaints consumers can contact the MIO at 012 841 2945.

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