Hyundai dealership says it's not liable for client's car that was stolen from its premises

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A general view of Hyundai Car Dealership in Johannesburg.
A general view of Hyundai Car Dealership in Johannesburg.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle
  • A Johannesburg client had his car stolen from a Hyundai dealership which was servicing his vehicle.
  • The dealership claims it is not liable for the stolen vehicle as stated in a clause signed by the client.
  • An expert, however, claims Section 65 of the Consumer Protection Act makes the dealership liable for the loss. 

A Johannesburg car dealership has denied liability for a client’s car which was stolen from its premises, after a man simply wandered in and took the keys from the showroom.

Now the car owner, Justice Mariba, has the unenviable task of claiming for the vehicle from his own insurance.

His Hyundai Grand i10 was bought in 2021 and was stolen on 1 March 2023 from the Hyundai Fourways dealership where he left it overnight for a service.

The dealership however, said it would, as a gesture of goodwill, pay the excess from the insurer.

Mariba dropped his car off at the dealership on 28 February after having issues with the battery. Less than three-years old, the vehicle was still under warranty and the dealership needed approval from the head office to address the issue. The dealership gave Mariba a courtesy car and told him to return the following day.

But when he came back after work the following day, the consultant could not locate his keys. That’s when they discovered the vehicle had been stolen at 16:50 – just 10 minutes before Mariba spoke to the consultant.

Mariba has an image of the thief in his car. He said he was told that the man in his car did not produce a driver’s licence when the guard at the gate asked him to, so the guard took an image of the man and let him out.

The cars tracking system had also been immobilised.

Frustrated, Mariba turned to social media to tell his story.

According to a thread on Mariba's Twitter page, the dealership in a statement to him the following day said that according to its footage, "a group of strangers drove into the dealership, walked around the entire dealership, stole the keys of your vehicle, which was ready for collection, and drove off".

READ | Man handed 17-year sentence for breaking into Ford dealership, stealing six bakkies and SUVs

Mariba said he also complained to the Hyundai head office and was told that the dealership was not negligent and that he should claim for the vehicle from his own insurance.

According to Mariba, the Hyundai said, when Mariba booked his vehicle into the dealership, he had signed an agreement with a clause which states: "The risk of damage or loss of the goods will remain my risk at all times and the [dealership] will only be held responsible for any direct losses of damages, directly or indirectly attributable to its gross negligence."

The letter shared by Mariba said there was no gross negligence on the part of the dealership, service providers, or its employees.

It further states that the dealership is therefore not liable to compensate Mariba for the loss and "we suggest that you lodge a claim with your insurance company".

"For the sake of our continued relationship and as a gesture of goodwill, without accepting liability, Hyundai Fourways is prepared to assist and pay the access which may be levied by your insurance, for the claim that you lodge."

Mariba told News24 that it was a pity that he had to resort to airing his frustrations on social media.

He has now claimed from his insurance which may have an effect on his premium.

"It's such an unfortunate thing and I worry about people who may not have insurance, [from the responses] there have been similar issues [where vehicles were stolen] at other dealerships."

He said a number of people had reached out to him to help.

Attorney Gys Verster, from Verster & Associates Attorneys Inc, said in terms of Section 65 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the dealership must take reasonable care in handling the vehicle and ensuring its safety.

Verster cautioned that this opinion did not constitute a formal one on this case, as he had not consulted with Mariba, and was made on face value "with the facts at hand".

Verster said on the face of it he believed the dealership, or the company had a case to answer, and that Mariba had acted at all times as a reasonable man and was not negligent in any way.

He said:

The consumer is protected under the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA). The dealership must exercise the degree of care, diligence and skill that can reasonably be expected of a person responsible for managing any property belonging to another person, which clearly was not the case and the conduct of the dealership constitutes gross negligence.

"By exercising the required degree of care and diligence, the dealership should ensure that the keys are kept safe and not lying around for any member of the public to take it.

"Section 65 of the CPA is clear that the dealership must take reasonable due care in handling the car and ensuring its safety: 'In the handling, safeguarding and utilization of that property, companies must exercise the degree of care, diligence and skill that can reasonably be expected of a person responsible for managing any property belonging to another person; and is liable to the owner of the property for any loss resulting from a failure to do so.'"

News24 reached out to Hyundai for comment and it will be added once received. 

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